Bombed Church Designated as National Landmark

The church where four black girls were killed in a Ku Klux Klan bombing in 1963 was designated as a national landmark on Monday, with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales remembering the girls in the context of recent arsons at ten Alabama churches.

Relatives of the victims joined Gonzales, the head of the U.S. Justice Department, at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., at the old brick building together with the church’s pastor on hand.

“Four young girls, smiling in their Sunday best and preparing to sing for the Lord, instead were taken to His comforting embrace forever. We protect this place for them,” read Gonzales’ prepared statement. The four girls were Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, all 14, and Denise McNair, 11.

Gonzales likened the bombing of the Baptist church in the 60s to a series of ten arsons that have struck Alabama Baptist churches since Feb. 3. The attacks, still under federal investigation, have not been attributed to racism however as five churches had black congregations and five had white.

According to AP, Gonzales said that in light of the attacks that “there is still work to be done” in ensuring equal justice and fighting against discrimination.

He called the church building a “catalyst for the cause of justice.”

The Rev. Arthur Price Jr., the church’s pastor said that the landmark designation was “major for us.”

Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton signed the proclamation, adding the church to about 2,500 other places designated as National Landmarks.

The church was a meeting place for activists of the civil rights era. Three Klansmen were convicted of the crime, the last in 2002.