Do You Know the 4 Little Girls’ Names?

On the 50th anniversary of the church bombing, we take a look at their individual lives.

Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; Addie Mae Collins, 14; Cynthia Wesley, 14 (AP Photo)
Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; Addie Mae Collins, 14; Cynthia Wesley, 14 (AP Photo)

Even though Cynthia’s father was a volunteer patrolman for their neighborhood, Cynthia was fairly naive about the violent nature of the civil rights movement. “We didn’t really discuss things like that in depth,” Savage told the Birmingham News.

Carole Robertson

Carole loved to read and achieved As in all of her courses. She wore a leotard and pink ballet slippers to dance classes on Saturday, and didn’t mind when her friends practiced new hairstyles on her hair for fun. Carole walked with a purpose, and once told a friend that she had a desire to “preserve the past” and teach history in some capacity. Her extracurricular activities were plentiful: Jack and Jill of America, the Girl Scouts, the marching band, the choir and the science club. 

Denise McNair

Denise was quite the community organizer for causes dear to her heart. She organized fundraisers to fight muscular dystrophy and would get the other neighborhood children together to put on skits, dance routines and read poetry. Denise’s show became an annual event, with one relative prophesizing that Denise would be a teacher because she was “a leader from the heart.” When Denise would fantasize about her future with a friend, she would pretend to be some sort of doctor, either delivering babies or tending to children as a pediatrician.

Denise, a naturally inquisitive girl, didn’t understand segregation. She didn’t “understand why she couldn’t get a sandwich at the same counter as white children,” People magazine reported. Denise had thick, shoulder-length hair and a confidence about herself that her dentist never forgot: Denise would smile a lot for the camera, even when she lost her baby teeth.

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is an editorial fellow at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a nonscripted Web series that examines culture. Follow her on Twitter