By Nathan Watson
On Sunday, Sept. 15, the 56th anniversary of the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four little girls and injured 22 others, the church will host a ceremony to honor the victims and unveil an updated memorial.
For decades, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church has honored the victims with a memorial nook inside the church. The memorial contains pictures, information, and mementos of the bombing. This year, the church has been working on updating the memorial. The unveiling of the new exhibit will take place on Sunday, September 15.
The new exhibit will feature an experience room with a 15-minute documentary on the Church and the 1963 bombing.
Additionally, the walls of the exhibit feature interactive panels. Each panel is to focus on different eras of the church, from its beginning in 1873 to current day. For example, one panel will tell the story of Wallace Rayfield, the black architect who designed the church. Furthermore, each panel will have photos and a slideshow. In addition, a large screen in the center of the room will feature various interviews of people connected to the church.
Sunday’s event will begin with a 9:30 a.m. memorial observance hosted by the church. Following the observance, attendees will gather at 10:22 a.m. for a bell-ringing. At 11 a.m., The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, Pastor of The Mother Emanuel AME Church, will deliver a sermon.
Afterwards, the church will unveil the updated memorial with a ribbon cutting at 1 p.m.
“I am very excited about the new renovations that we will have in our basement, said Ahkeem Lee, lifelong church member and tour guide. “We have always attempted to showcase the church history outside of the day of the bombing and the Civil Rights Movement. The new renovations will provide the opportunity to tell the story of the church from beginning to now.”
Recently, a Welsh delegation visited the church to pay their respects and lay wreaths in remembrance of the event. Following the bombing, Welsh artist John Petts created and donated a window to replace the damaged one. The Wales Window, as it is known, is an iconic image of the Civil Rights Movement.
The church has been taking a number of steps to restore and renovate the building. After winning a $150,000 Partners in Preservation grant, the church was able to add a protective layer to the stained-glass windows. Last week, the church replaced the main doors in the sanctuary. Although they are new, the doors closely resemble the original paneled doors that the church had in the 1960s.
“This church was very significant before the bombing and the new exhibit will tell the complete story of the church. We want people to know about black excellence during that time, and when you come here now you will be able to learn that history,” Lee said.
Unveiling Of The Memorial
Where: 16th Street Baptist Church, 1530 6th Ave N, Birmingham, AL
When: Service begins at 9:30am
All are welcome. Admission is free.
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