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The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963

Posted by Laurie Frost on July 4, 2013

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama

Carol Highsmith’s photo of the Wales window at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
Credit: The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. [LC-DIG-highsm-05063]

I have a new blog: Long Time Coming at  http://longtimecoming1963.wordpress.com/.

I’ve been neglecting my other blogs lately because I have been helping a friend by putting his mother’s book up as a blog. This is the fiftieth anniversary of the turning point in the Civil Rights Era in the US, and his mother, Elizabeth H. Cobbs, risked her life in 1977 to testify against her uncle by marriage, Robert Chambliss, who largely through her testimony was the first bomber of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church to be convicted. She cooperated fully with the FBI in 1963, and had this become known, the Ku Klux Klan would have killed her, but her efforts then were futile because FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover decided to shelve the case indefinitely.

If you are unfamiliar with this event, briefly, on September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded in the basement of a black Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls, and seriously injuring a fifth. You may have heard of Spike Lee’s film, 4 Little Girls

This is what I wrote on the home page of Long Time Coming

This website presents in full the original text of Long Time Coming: An Insider’s Story of the Birmingham Church Bombing That Rocked The World written by Elizabeth H. Cobbs/Petric J. Smith and published by Crane Hill Publishers in 1994.

The author died in 1998.

Crane Hill Publishers is no longer operating, and Long Time Coming is out-of-print. The Estate of Petric J. Smith is making this digital edition available so that the story of the long journey to the conviction of Robert Chambliss for the death of Denise McNair in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, is accessible to a wider audience.  . . .

This digital edition takes advantage of its formatting by adding hyperlinks to the text. New pictures, which unless otherwise noted are in the public domain and available at the Library of Congress’s website, have also been included.

As I worked on the blog, I added public domain pictures to illustrate the story.

And as always with images of contemporary America, my best source was the The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Carol Highsmith has placed over 100,000 images in the public domain through her archive at the Library of Congress. She is now going state by state, capturing even more images of contemporary America.

For my purposes, I was fortunate that the first state she was able to cover was Alabama. You can read about that here.

I used a number of her photographs of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the Civil Rights Institute, and Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham in Long Time Coming. Here are just a few examples: 

 

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama. The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-highsm-05091

 

Sculpture dedicated to the Foot Soldiers of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement. Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama

Sculpture dedicated to the Foot Soldiers of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement. Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama. The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. LC-DIG-highsm-05100

Ku Klux Klan exhibit, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham, Alabama. Credit: The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-DIG-highsm-05074]

 

For historical photos, the Library of Congress was also my best source. Examples:

2.  GENERAL PERSPECTIVE VIEW OF SOUTHEAST (FRONT) AND NORTHEAST SIDE FROM KELLY-INGRAM PARK - Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, 1530 Sixth Avenue North, Birmingham, Jefferson County, AL

GENERAL PERSPECTIVE VIEW OF SOUTHEAST (FRONT) AND NORTHEAST SIDE FROM KELLY-INGRAM PARK – Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, 1530 Sixth Avenue North, Birmingham, Jefferson County, AL. Library of Congress, HABS ALA,37-BIRM,33–2.

Ku Klux Klan, between 1921 and 1922. Library of Congress. LC-DIG-npcc-30454

[Group of African Americans viewing the

Bomb-damaged home of Arthur Shores, NAACP attorney, Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by Marion Trikoskco, 1963 Sept. 5. LC-DIG-ppmsca-03194

[Federalized National Guard troops on the campus of the University of Alabama, June 11, 1963 when African Americans Vivian Malone and James Hood registered for classes]

Federalized National Guard troops on the campus of the University of Alabama, June 11, 1963 when African Americans Vivian Malone and James Hood registered for classes. Photo by Warren Leffler. LC-DIG-ds-01108

Mugshots are in the public domain:

Mugshot of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bomber Robert Chambliss, arrested September 26, 1977 for murder.

Frankly, were it not for Carol Highsmith’s incredible generosity in placing her work in the public domain, and the U.S. News & World Report magazine photograph collection at the Library of Congress [Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on work taken by staff photographers. Other material may be restricted by copyright. For more inforamtion, see U.S. News … (http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/res/078_usnw.html)], photographs for which permission need not be asked or licensing fees paid were hard to find.

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Note: On the Long Time Coming blog, you will also see photos with the note: Property of the Birmingham Public Library.  These are not in the public domain. I included these in that blog, but not in this one, because they also appear in the print version of Long Time Coming, meaning Elizabeth Cobbs/Petric J. Smith or Crane Hill Publishers secured permission for their use in 1994, and I am waiting to hear if that permission extends to digital editions. Meanwhile, I have included them there under Fair Use provisions, since the blog is not-for-profit but for educational purposes.

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