A congressional gold medal was awarded posthumously Sept. 10 in
Washington, D.C., to the four victims of the 1963 bombing by white
supremacists of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
The medal was presented in ceremonies at the United States Capitol
on behalf of the four African-American victims — Addie Mae Collins,
14; Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14.
The bombing marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement of
the 1960s and fueled support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Presentation of the medal came five days before the 50th
anniversary of the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing.
President Obama signed into law May 24, 2013, Public Law 113-11,
authorizing recognition of the bombing victims with a congressional
The gold medal will be permanently displayed at the Birmingham
Civil Rights Institute.
Bronze duplicates of the gold medal are now available from the
United States Mint in 3-inch and 1.5-inch versions.
The bombing victims were among 26 children on their way to Sunday
worship services at the time of the explosion.
Among the injured was Sarah Collins, Addie Mae Collins’ sister.
Now Sarah Collins Rudolph, she attended the Sept. 10 gold medal
presentation ceremony at the Capitol.
Also in attendance were Chris and Maxine McNair, Denise’s parents
and the last surviving parents of the four girls.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in remarks during the
medal presentation ceremony, honored the memory of the four slain girls.
“There was no safety for those four little girls. Not even Sunday
school,” Reid said. “But there really was salvation. Not only for the
four young ladies, but for a nation.
“That outrage sparked by the deaths of these four innocents
ignited the civil rights movement like nothing had up to that time.”
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., noted in his remarks
how the 1963 explosion blew out virtually every stained glass window
in the church except one carrying the image of Christ, his face
missing, as he led a group of children.
“The symbolism was potent,” McConnell said.
Medal designs, availability
The medal’s obverse was designed by U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion
Program Master Designer Barbara Fox and sculptured by U.S. Mint
Medallic Sculptor Jim Licaretz.
The design features the silhouette of four young girls,
representing those killed on that fateful day. The victims’ names are
inscribed around the border of the design.
The legend PIVOTAL IN THE STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY is incused in
three lines across the lower portion of the silhouettes, along with
the date of the attack, SEPTEMBER 15 1963 in two lines.
AIP Master Designer Donna Weaver designed the medal’s reverse,
which was sculptured by U.S. Mint Medallic Sculptor Joseph F. Menna.
The reverse depicts a view of the 16th Street Baptist Church with
the inscription KILLED IN THE BOMBING OF THE 16TH ST. BAPTIST CHURCH
to the left of the image. Additional inscriptions are ACT OF CONGRESS
2013 and BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA.
Three-inch and 1.5-inch bronze versions of the medals are
available from the U.S. Mint for $39.95 and $6.95 each, respectively.
The medals were made available for purchase at the bureau’s online
catalog, www.usmint.gov/catalog, starting at noon Eastern Time
on Sept. 11.
The medals also can be purchased by calling the Mint order line at 800-872-6468.
Hearing- and speech-impaired customers with TTY equipment may call