This offense indicated a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. Three guys in charge of the terrorist act were brought to justice between 1977 and 2002. She attended the 16th Street Baptist Church along with her adoptive parents, Claude and Gertrude Wesley. On the morning of Sunday, September 15, 1963, a 14-year old Wesley was in the church basement room having several other kids.
Wesley perished in the blast, as well as 11-year old Denise McNair, and 14-year olds Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins. Along with the four fatalities, more than 20 people were injured throughout the event. The bombing that killed Wesley as well as the three other girls was a racially motivated hate crime. It happened in the context of social turmoil in the town of Birmingham, known as “Bombingham” after a spate of terrorist actions.
In the months before the church bombing, the Civil Rights Movement had made steps in the town of Birmingham. In May 1963, city and civil rights leaders negotiated the integration of public spaces, triggering widespread violence. The shocking murder of the four girls attracted national interest. A memorial service for three of the four including Wesley brought an estimated 8,000 mourners.
Despite its visibility, the bombing remained an unsolved case until the 1970s. Robert Chambliss, an associate of a Ku Klux Klan group seen putting the dynamite beneath the church measures, was detained in 1963 but attempted just for the illegal possession of explosives. The case remained inactive until 1971, when Attorney General William Baxley reopened it. Baxley got FBI files containing substantive advice, such as the names of defendants, which had stayed unreleased by J. Edgar Hoover in the 1960s. In a subsequent statement, the FBI said that their investigation was impeded by the dearth of witness co-operation in Birmingham. A fourth defendant, Herman Frank Cash, expired in 1994, before he could face charges.
Wesley as well as the other casualties became immediate and lasting symbols of racial violence, styled as martyrs in the battle for civil rights. Wesley’s narrative is told in the 1997 Spike Lee movie 4 Little Girls, a documentary on the bombing and its own political importance. In 2013, the United States Congress granted each woman the Congressional Gold Medal.