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Prepared Excerpts by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church

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U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson

By Barnett Wright

The Birmingham Times

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson, making her first visit to Alabama, delivered a special memorial service address in the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church as the city of Birmingham commemorated the 60th year anniversary since the church was bombed killing four little girls on Sept. 15, 1963.

Brown-Jackson, the first African American female U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice, titled her talk “Commemorate and Mourn, Celebrate and Warn” in a church that expected an overflow crowd.

In her prepared remarks, the Associate Justice said she “felt in my spirit that I had to come” to Alabama and Birmingham — known in the 1950s and 60s as the most segregated city in the United States — for the first time.

“I come with the understanding that I did not reach these professional heights on my own—that people of all races and faiths, people of courage and conviction cleared the path for me in the wake of the horrible tragedy that snuffed out the too-brief lives of those four little girls inside this sacred space,” said Brown-Jackson, in prepared remarks.

“The theft of those souls and spirits shook and bent our own, but we did not break. Indeed, it was from the rubble of the bombing in this church that our nation renewed its commitment to justice and equality.”

On Sept. 15, 1963, a bomb demolished the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing Addie Mae Collins, 14; Denise McNair, 11; Carole Rosamond Robertson, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14 and injuring dozens of parishioners.

“In the aftermath of that fateful day … our city and our nation had to take a hard look at itself and reckon with the devasting effects of hate and racism,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin in previous remarks. “Today, in the spirit of the Four Little Girls, we work to be better and honor them by preserving our history and building a future worthy of their sacrifice.”

Rev. Arthur Price, pastor of Sixteenth Street Baptist, said the church has held many events throughout the year to commemorate the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, but the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the bombing was about love, redemption and remembering the four little girls who died in the blast.

“Because of this act of terrorism on our soil, the world began to take more careful notice of the racial unrest in the south and we look back at that time with reflection and hope for the future,” Price said. “We are a different Birmingham, a changing Birmingham, and we are looking forward to forging justice for a better world. We are still standing to tell God’s message of love and redemption and we will never forget Cynthia Morris Wesley, Carole Robertson, Denise McNair and Addie Mae Collins.”