Four Little Girls, African American History Month, Carole Robertson ~cbs

 
Four Little Girls, African American History Month, Carole Robertson  ~cbs
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Carole Robertson, April 24, 1949 - Sept. 15, 1963... Smithfield Recreation Center's auditorium became a dance school every Saturday afternoon when eager girls arrived for lessons in tap, ballet and modern jazz. Carole Robertson, wearing a leotard and toting black patent leather tap shoes and pink ballet slippers, was among the crowd. "We didn't have any problems getting our chores done so we could get to dancing class on Saturdays,"said Florita Jamison Askew, who attended classes with Carole and Carole's big sister."Nobody ever wanted to miss them." Students worked hard on their ballet and shuffle steps in preparation for the annual spring recital, where they got to wear makeup and dance with their hair down."It was a lot of fun,"Mrs. Askew said. Born April 24, 1949, Carole was the third child of Alpha and Alvin Robertson. Older siblings were Dianne and Alvin. Carole was an avid reader and straight-A student who belonged to Jack and Jill of America, the Girl Scouts, the Parker High School marching band and science club. She also had attended Wilkerson Elementary School, where she sang in the choir. Carole walked fast and with a smile. "She moved through the halls rapidly, not running, but just full of life,"said retired Birmingham teacher Lottie Palmer, who was a science club sponsor."She was a girl that was anxious to .¤.¤. succeed and do well. Carole grew up in a Smithfield home that was full of love, friends and the aroma of good cooking, especially her mother's spaghetti. "There was a lot of warmth in the house. The food was good and the people were kind," Mrs. Askew said."That was kind of my second home." Inside the one-story home with the wrap-around porch, Mrs. Askew and the Robertson girls practiced dances such as the cha-cha and tried out different hairstyles — often on Carole, who didn't mind being the model. Carole once told Mrs. Askew, now a retired dentist, about her desire to preserve the past. "I remember a statement she made — she wanted to teach history or do something his­ torical. I thought how ironic it was that she would remain a part of history forever." In 1976, Chicago residents established the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, a social service agency that serves children and their families. Named after Carole, it is dedicated to the memory of all four girls. Members of the Jack and Jill choir were scheduled to sing at Carole's funeral Sept. 17, 1963, at St. John AME Church."Of course, we didn't do much singing,"said choir member Karen Floyd Savage."We cried through it." by Chanda Temple © The Birmingham News. Online Source http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/randall/birmingham.htm ............................ Even as the inspiring words of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech rang out from the Lincoln Memorial during the historic March on Washington in August of 1963, racial relations in the segregated South were marked by continued violence and inequality. On September 15, a bomb exploded before Sunday morning services at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama--a church with a predominantly black congregation that served as a meeting place for civil rights leaders. Four young girls were killed and many other people injured; outrage over the incident and the violent clash between protesters and police that followed helped draw national attention to the hard-fought, often dangerous struggle for civil rights for African Americans. ````````` Many of the civil rights protest marches that took place in Birmingham during the 1960s began at the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church, which had long been a significant religious center for the city's black population and a routine meeting place for civil rights organizers like King. KKK members had routinely called in bomb threats intended to disrupt civil rights meetings as well as services at the church. ````````` At 10:22 a.m. on the morning of September 15, 1963, some 200 church members were in the building--many attending Sunday school classes before the start of the 11 am service--when the bomb detonated on the church's east side, spraying mortar and bricks from the front of the church and caving in its interior walls. Most parishioners were able to evacuate the building as it filled with smoke, but the bodies of four young girls (14-year-old Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson and 11-year-old Denise McNair) were found beneath the rubble in a basement restroom. Ten-year-old Sarah Collins, who was also in the restroom at the time of the explosion, lost her right eye, and more than 20 other people were injured in the blast. Aftermath of the Birmingham Church Bombing ````````` The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on September 15 was the third bombing in 11 days, after a federal court order had come down mandating the integration of Alabama's school system. In the aftermath of the bombing, thousands of angry black protesters gathered at the scene of the bombing. When Governor Wallace sent police and state troopers to break the protests up, violence broke out across the city; a number of protesters were arrested, and two young African American men were killed (one by police) before the National Guard was called in to restore order. King later spoke before 8,000 people at the funeral for three of the girls (the family of the fourth girl held a smaller private service), fueling the public outrage now mounting across the country. ~~~~~~~~ Though Birmingham's white supremacists (and even certain individuals) were immediately suspected in the bombing, repeated calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice went unanswered for more than a decade. It was later revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had information concerning the identity of the bombers by 1965 and did nothing. (J. Edgar Hoover, then-head of the FBI, disapproved of the civil rights movement; he died in 1972.) In 1977, Alabama Attorney General Bob Baxley reopened the investigation and Klan leader Robert E. Chambliss was brought to trial for the bombings and convicted of murder. Continuing to maintain his innocence, Chambliss died in prison in 1985. The case was again reopened in 1980, 1988 and 1997, when two other former Klan members, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry, were finally brought to trial; Blanton was convicted in 2001 and Cherry in 2002. (A fourth suspect, Herman Frank Cash, died in 1994 before he could be brought to trial.) .. Lasting Impact of the Birmingham Church Bombing````````` Even though the legal system was slow to provide justice, the effect of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church was immediate and significant. Outrage over the death of the four innocent girls helped build increased support behind the continuing struggle to end segregation--support that would help lead to the passage of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In that important sense, the bombing's impact was exactly the opposite of what its perpetrators had intended. http://www.history.com/topics/birmingham-church-bombing
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