September 15th marked 59 years since the infamous 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala. in which a Ku Klux Klan terrorist attack killed four Black girls.
According to the FBI, a dynamite bomb exploded at 10:24 a.m. in the back stairwell. A “violent blast ripped through the wall,” killing the girls and injuring more than 20 other people inside the church.
“It was a clear act of racial hatred: the church was a key civil rights meeting place and had been a frequent target of bomb threats,” the bureau’s files noted.
Sarah Collins Rudolph, whose sister died in the attack, lost an eye in the bombing. Nearly six decades later, she’s still waiting for compensation for her injuries from the state, the Associated Press reports.
Pieces of glass remain inside her body from the explosion, and she suffers stress disorders. At the same time, Rudolph is paying off a medical bill for work on the prosthetic she wears in place of her right eye. She believes the state owes her millions of dollars.
Rudolph, known as the “fifth little girl,” was just 12 years old at the time of the bombing. In 2020, her attorneys sent a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on the anniversary of the attack requesting a formal apology from the state and restitution, The Washington Post reported two years ago.
“While the State of Alabama did not place the bomb next to the church, its Governor and other leaders at the time played an undisputed role in encouraging its citizens to engage in racial violence,” the newspaper quoted the letter.
Ivey responded in a letter that “many would question whether the State can be held legally responsible for what happened at the Sixteenth Baptist Church so long ago. Having said that, there should be no question that the racist, segregationist rhetoric used by some of our leaders during that time was wrong and would be utterly unacceptable in today’s Alabama.”
The Republican governor added that the state legislature must decide on whether to make a formal apology and compensate Rudolph for her injuries, calling on state lawmakers to start discussions with Rudolph’s lawyers “as soon as possible.”
Rudolph noted that government money was provided for renovation of the church and for the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. But state lawmakers have not introduced legislation to compensate her, and it appears unlikely to happen in the Republican-dominated state legislature.
“She deserves justice in the form of compensation for the grievous injuries, and costs, she has had to bear for almost 60 years,” Rudolph’s attorney, Ishan Bhabha, told the AP. “We will continue to pursue any available avenues to get Sarah the assistance she needs and deserves.”
The explosion killed Denise McNair, 11, and three 14-year-olds: Carole Robertson, Cynthia Morris and Addie Mae Collins, who was Rudolph’s sister.
Years later, three Klansmen were convicted of murder and died in prison, and a fourth suspect died without ever being charged.