Speak Out: Progress in civil rights
by our readers
May 21, 2013 | 2403 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The news has been full of the Boston bombing and the rapid identification of the suspects. Contrast this with the 50 bombings of black homes in Birmingham in the late 1940s and 1950s. Police reports continued to state there was “not enough evidence” to enable them to search for the perpetrators.

Just after the settlement between civil rights leaders and Birmingham’s business leaders on May 10, 1963, more bombings took place. Again law enforcement looked the other way. Even after the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church at 10:22 on Sunday morning, Sept. 15, 1963, there was “not enough evidence” to bring a conviction. The FBI, under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, closed the case with no convictions five years later. However, Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley discovered in 1971 that the FBI had files on four suspects: “Dynamite” Bob Chambliss, Bobby Frank Cherry, Herman Frank Cash and Thomas E. Blanton Jr. Their files had not been revealed to the prosecutors by the FBI.

In 1977, Chambliss was finally convicted of murder and sentenced to several terms of life imprisonment. The case was opened again in 2000. In April 2001, Blanton was convicted, receiving four life sentences. In May 2002, 39 years after the bombing, Cherry received a similar sentence. In the meantime, Cash had died before being brought to trial.

As we remember the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Campaign in Birmingham and of the bombing of the church, and we are not fearful that dynamite will explode there again. But if it does, we’ll find the perpetrators. Dramatic progress has been made.

Doug Carpenter
Birmingham
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