Congress, Honor the 4 Little Girls of Birmingham

Tavis Smiley, writing at the Huffington Post, demands a Congressional Gold Medal for the children killed nearly 50 years ago by a white supremacist at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church.

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Mourners at funeral for victims of 16th Street Baptist Church bombing (Burton McNeely/Time & Life/Getty Images)

Tavis Smiley, writing at the Huffington Post, demands a Congressional Gold Medal for the children killed nearly 50 years ago by a white supremacist at Birmingham, Ala.'s 16th Street Baptist Church.

Nearly 50 years ago, a bomb planted by white supremacists killed four little girls in Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church. Twenty-two others, mostly children, were injured in the blast just weeks after the historic "March on Washington" where Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

There is already intense planning in the nation's capital and beyond to mark the 50th anniversary of the "March on Washington" in August of this year. But once we have moved past the ceremony and celebration of the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of the nation, what will be said days later of Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robinson and Cynthia Wesley, all 14 when they were killed, and Denise McNair who was just 11, on the 50th anniversary of this seminal moment in the movement? The gruesome and ghastly images of their deaths helped to galvanize the Civil Rights Movement in the days after the march, and within a year Congress had passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and one year later the 1965 Voting Rights Act. How do we honor their ultimate sacrifice?

There is now a bipartisan effort to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to these precious young girls. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor our government can bestow. There is no doubt that these "martyred children" have earned this recognition, but even when Congress is pushed it does nothing with alacrity. If we are going to appropriately acknowledge these four little girls 50 years later on September 15, 2013, we need to start niggling members of Congress now. Right now.

Read Tavis Smiley's entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM