Congress set to consider bill to honor 16th Street Baptist Church bombing victims

16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. (

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to consider H.R. 360, a bill to award posthumously a Congressional Gold Medal to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, in recognition of the 50th commemoration of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church where the four young girls lost their lives, eventually serving as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement, under a suspension of the rules.{} The bill, sponsored by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), was introduced on January 23 and referred to the Committee on Financial Services.

H.R. 360 authorizes the "striking" and posthumous award of a single Congressional Gold Medal to the four young victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing on September 15, 1963.{} The award will be given to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, where it will be available for public display.{} The bill also authorizes the Mint to strike bronze duplicates of the medal for sale.

On Sunday, September 15, 1963, four members of a group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan planted dynamite outside the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.{}{} The bomb killed four young girls, shocking the nation and providing an important impetus to the civil rights movement.

The Congressional Gold Medal, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is America's highest civilian honor.{} First awarded by Congress in 1776 to George Washington, the Congressional Gold Medal has been presented to notable figures that have left a lasting mark on American culture and history, including military leaders, musicians, scientists, explorers, and many others.

H.R. 360 recognizes the sacrifice and the important role the deaths of these four young girls played in galvanizing a movement for equal rights and justice under the law, and places them in the same company as other great American figures who were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal, such as Rev. Billy Graham, Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott, and Rosa Parks.