Denise McNair was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on November 17, 1951. On September 15, 1963, McNair and three other African American girls were killed in a terrorist attack on the 16th Street Church. Three guys responsible for McNair’s homicide were brought to justice between 1977 and 2002.
She attended the 16th Street Baptist Church along with her parents, Chris and Maxine McNair. On the morning of Sunday, September 15, 1962, 11-year old Denise McNair was scheduled to take part in the morning sermon. She filed right into a cellar room with 25 other kids who have been also preparing for the sermon, entitled “The Love That Forgives.” The kids in the cellar were the closest parishioners to the explosion site and endured the most serious injuries. Four girls, including Denise McNair, perished in the assault. Over 20 people were injured in the blast, that was powerful enough to rip a hole in the back wall of the church.
The act of terrorism that killed Denise McNair was inspired by racial hate. In the months before the bombing, the Civil Rights Movement had made steps in the town of Birmingham. An upsurge in violence and terrorism followed this policy shift. The 16th Street Church, often used as a meeting place for leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph D. Abernathy, was a clear objective for this action. Some white political leaders permitted as well as encouraged violent actions toward African Americans. In a interview shortly prior to the bombing, Alabama Governor George Wallace proposed hopefully that a few “first class funerals” might prevent integration in his state.
Despite eyewitness account, there have been no convictions in the bombing until 1977. 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 possession of explosives with no license. The case subsequently stayed inactive until it had been reopened in 1971, through the government of Attorney General William Baxley. Baxley got FBI files that included substantive advice, such as the names of defendants, which were withheld by J. Edgar Hoover in the ’60s. In a subsequent statement, the FBI maintained that their initial investigation was hamstrung by the dearth of witness co-operation in Birmingham. A fourth defendant, Herman Frank Cash, expired in 1994 and was never charged.
Chris and Maxine McNair had two daughters following Denise’s departure. The family appears in the Spike Lee movie 4 Little Girls, a documentary on the bombing and its consequences. McNair and her fellow sufferers became symbols of racial violence, styled as martyrs in the battle for civil rights. In 2013, the United States Congress granted each girl the Congressional Gold Medal. The racially motivated assault killed four young girls and shocked the country.