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Eulogy for the victims of the church bombing – Sept. 18, 1963

16th Street Baptist Church
A view of the 'Four Spirits' statue and the 16th Street Baptist Church, November 19, 2017, in Birmingham, Alabama. The statues memorialize the four victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963. |

Shortly after the “I have a Dream Speech” was given, a violent white supremacist planted a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church of Birmingham, Alabama, resulting in the deaths of four African American girls.

King gave a eulogy at the funeral service attended by thousands for three of the victims — Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair and Cynthia Diane Wesley — declaring that “they died nobly.”

“They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death,” said King.

“They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism.”

Already a well-known speech, King’s eulogy gained increased attention in 2015 after white supremacist Dylann Roof entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and murdered nine people.

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