Survivors of 16th Street Baptist Church bombing to speak at Penn State Shenango

Barbara Cross and Junie Collins Williams, two female survivors of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, will be guest speakers at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at Penn State Shenango Auditorium in downtown Sharon, Pa. The event, which marks the 50th anniversary of the infamous bombing, is being sponsored by the Inter-Denominational Clergy Women’s Alliance Inc. of the Shenango Valley Chapter and Penn State Shenango. A meet and greet and light reception will follow the event in the Great Hall.

It was 10:22 a.m. Sept. 15, 1963, when a homemade bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four young girls and injuring several others. 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 Martin Luther King.

Cross, who was 13-years-old at the time, lost four of her friends that day. Her father, Pastor John Cross Jr., watched as part of his church crumbled right before his eyes destroying the face of Jesus in one of the stained-glass windows. As he and other church members quickly began to dig through rubble from the collapsed basement, the small bodies of 11-year-old Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthisa Wesley were found dead.

Williams was not only good friends of the girls who had died, she was the sister of 14-year-old Addie Mae Collins. After years of silence and healing, Williams began telling her story to a new generation, appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “The View,” in People’s Magazine, and on colleges and universities across the country.

“Today’s youth are taking for granted the rights hard-won by the civil rights movement,” said Williams. “As time progresses there are fewer witnesses to the events that shaped the term African-American. I am that eyewitness. I feel compelled to tell the story. We must share a story to motivate young people to make a difference in their corner of the planet.”

Cross and Williams will also speak the following day, Sunday, Sept. 1, at the Hour of Power Full Gospel Tabernacle in Farrell, Pa.

For more information on both of these events, contact the Rev. Jennifer L. Campbell, public relations representative for SVICA, at 724-685-6406 or Liz Izenas, coordinator for Community Relations, Penn State Shenango, at 724-983-2906.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Updated July 31, 2013