Civil Rights - Women


Four Girls Killed in 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

Addie Mae Collins
, April 18, 1949 to September 15, 1963
Carole Rosamond Robertson, April 24, 1949 to September 15, 1963
Cynthia Wesley, April 30, 1949 to September 15, 1963
Carol Denise McNair, November 17, 1951 to September 15, 1963

On September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church killing four young Black girls: Addie Mae Collins, Carole Rosamond Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Carol Denise McNair. They were killed as they prepared to lead the church's annual Youth Day service.

A fifth girl, Sarah Collins, Addie Mae's sister was in the basement with the other girls and had just turned her head to look at Addie when she heard a loud noise. She called Addie's name three or four times but did not get an answer. The impact of the explosion shot 27 pieces of glass into Sarah's face causing her to lose her right eye and partially blinding her in her left eye.

The bomb was planted by four Ku Klux Klan members: Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Edwin Blanton, Herman Frank Cash and Robert Edward Chambliss. Initially only Chambliss was charged. He was tried on murder charges, acquitted and on November 18, 1977, found guilty of First-Degree Murder. Chambliss was sentenced to several life terms. Bobby Frank Cherry was convicted in 2001 of all four murders and sentenced to life in prison. Thomas Edwin Blanton, Jr. was convicted in 2001 also of all four murders and sentenced to life in prison. Herman Frank Cash died in 1994 without being charged.

Note: Family members sought to have Addie’s coffin moved to a different cemetery, one better maintained than Greenwood Cemetery. When Addie's body was exhumed and the casket opened, her remains were not inside. Both sisters, Sarah Collins Rudolph and Junie Collins Peavy Williams said they do not know what happened to their sister’s body and that they have made efforts to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Addie's body. Also, see 16th Street Baptist Church.

Update February 2020: An investigation was held at Greenwood Cemetery. Through the use of underground radar, a casket believed to be that of Addie Mae Collins was located next to the burial site of Carole Robertson. Addie's sister, Sarah Collins Rudolph present during the investigation stated in a report by ABC 33/40 News, “I’m so happy we found where Addie’s grave is located. I am just real happy.”

Top L: The four girls killed when the church was bombed, public domain.  R: Sarah Collins Rudolph, Addie Mae Collins' sister, stood within feet of Addie when the bomb exploded.  She lost an eye in the explosion. Junie Collins Peavy Williams, Addie's older sister, experienced years of emotional distress after the death of her sister. 
Second L:
 Grave of Addie Mae Collins.  R: Grave of Carole Rosamond Robertson.

Third L: Grave of Cynthia Wesley. R: Grave of Carol Denise McNair.  

Rubel, David. "The Coming Free: The Struggle for African-American Equality." New York: DK Publishing, 2005. Print.



16th Street Baptist Church,, Web.


Last parent of a child killed in the Birmingham 16th Street Baptist Church bombing dies at 93,, Web.


Birmingham Bombing (Sixteenth Street Baptist Church), crdl/, Web.


Addie Mae Collins,, Web.


Carole Rosamond Robertson,, Web.


Cynthia Dionne Wesley,, Web.


Carol Denise McNair,, Web.

Spike Lee. "4 Little Girls.", HBO Home Video, 2001. DVD

Rudolph, Sarah Collins and Williams, Junie Collins Peavy. The Civil Rights Movement. Dickinson College. Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, Carlisle, PA. Panel Discussion.

Site Visits
Gravesite. Addie Mae Collins - Greenwood Cemetery, Birmingham, AL. 
Gravesite. Carole Rosamond Robertson - Greenwood Cemetery, Birmingham, AL. 
Gravesite. Cynthia Dionne Wesley - Greenwood Cemetery, Birmingham, AL. 
Gravesite. Carol Denise McNair - Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, AL. 
16th Street Baptist Church Tour. Birmingham, AL.

Addie Mae Collins - Greenwood Cemetery, Messer-Airport Highway and Aviation Highway, Birmingham, AL
Carole Rosamond Robertson - Greenwood Cemetery, Messer-Airport Highway and Aviation Highway,
Birmingham, AL 35212.
Cynthia Dionne Wesley - Greenwood Cemetery, Messer-Airport Highway and Aviation Highway, Birmingham,
AL  35212.

Carol Denise McNair - Elmwood Cemetery, 600 Martin Luther King Jr Drive, Birmingham, AL  35211. Phone:

Irene Morgan Kirkaldy
April 9, 1917 to August 10, 2007

The Nation’s First Freedom Rider

In July of 1944, Irene Morgan rode a bus from Baltimore, MD to Gloucester, VA to let her two children spend part of the summer with her mother.  During her return trip to Baltimore on July 16, Ms. Morgan boarded a Greyhound bus in Gloucester and sat in the back of the bus. Jim Crow laws dictated that Blacks sit in the back of the bus; the section designated for colored people.

She sat next to a young African American woman with a small child.  After several stops, the bus became crowded. A white woman boarded the bus and Ms. Morgan was instructed by the white bus driver to give up her seat. She refused. The young lady seated next her was also told to get up. Ms. Morgan did not move and told the young woman next to her to sit back down. Ms. Morgan explained to the young mother that she could not ride the bus standing up with a young child.

The bus driver drove to Saluda, VA and located a deputy who told her to get up. Again, she refused. The deputy threatened to issue a warrant for her arrest. She asked him how he planned to issue a warrant without knowing her name. He then grabbed her by the arm and tried to pull her off the bus. Ms. Morgan kicked him in the groin. A second deputy grabbed her by the arm and a tussle ensued. The deputy threatened to hit her with his nightstick. She told the deputy, “We’ll just hit each other." 

Ms. Morgan was charged with resisting arrest and violating Virginia segregation laws. She was eventually taken off the bus and jailed in Saluda. While in the holding cell, Ms. Morgan tapped on the window and got the attention of a little boy.  She told him to go get her mother and Reverend Carter.

Bail was set at $500.00. She raised money with the help of the community and was released within hours of being detained. At the trial, Ms. Morgan pled guilty to Resisting Arrest and paid the fine. She refused to plead guilty to violating Jim Crow laws and did not pay the $10.00 fine.

The case was appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court in Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia. A team of attorneys from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) represented Ms. Morgan included Oliver Hill, William Hastie, Spottswood W. Robinson III, and Thurgood Marshall. They lost the appeal. The case was later appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

On June 3, 1946, the Supreme Court banned segregation in interstate travel stating, in part, that segregation places and undue burden on interstate commerce.

Ms. Morgan was born in Baltimore, the sixth of nine children. She married Sherman Morgan and had two children. Mr. Morgan died in 1948. She later married Stanley Kirkaldy and moved to Queens, NY. Mr. Kirkaldy died in 2006. Mrs. Morgan-Kirkaldy valued education and in 1985 received a bachelor's degree from St. John's University. In 1990 she earned a master's degree from Queens College at the age of 73. 

Top L:
 Irene Morgan Kirkaldy. Courtesy of her daughter, Ms. Brenda Bacquie. R: Grave marker.
L: New Irene Morgan History Marker presented to the public on October 13, 2012. R: This writer, Percy White III and History Marker. 

"Morgan v. Virginia (1946).", Web. 

"The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow." pbs(, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. Jim Crow Stories. Morgan v. Virginia | PBS ( Web. 

Bacquie, Brenda. Irene Morgan Kirkaldy. Rosewell Cemetery, Hayes, VA.  Discussion.

Site Visit
Irene Morgan Kirkaldy gravesite. Roswell Cemetery, Hayes, VA. 


Rosewell Cemetery, Providence Road, Hayes, Virginia 23072.

Viola Liuzzo
April 11, 1925 to March 25, 1965

Viola Liuzzo, a white 39-year-old housewife and mother of five, drove from Detroit, Michigan to Selma, Alabama to support the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ms. Liuzzo arrived in time to participate in the march and gave people rides from Montgomery back to Selma. Leroy Moton, a Black teenage volunteer, helped Ms. Liuzzo with the driving. 

After Dr. King delivered his “How Long, Not Long,” speech in front of the Alabama State Capitol Building, Ms. Liuzzo met with Mr. Moton, and they made several trips shuttling marchers back to Selma. Later that evening while stopped at a traffic light in Selma, a car filled with four Klansmen saw her Michigan licenses plates and followed her. Several miles outside of town on Route 80 East, Ms. Liuzzo sped up, but the Klansmen pulled alongside her and shot her twice in the face. She was killed instantly. Her car swerved off the road and ran into a ditch. The Klansmen pulled over to inspect the damage. Ms. Liuzzo was dead, and Mr. Moton lay motionless, knocked unconscious by the crash impact. 

Gary Rowe, a Klansmen and a paid FBI informant, provided information to the federal government resulting in the killer’s arrest the next day. Three of the Klansman were found guilty of participating in a criminal conspiracy. Gary Rowe was not charged. In an interview with Ms. Liuzzo's daughters, Penny Liuzzo-Herrington and Sally Liuzzo-Prado, on February 24, 2011, they reported that they believe Gary Rowe also fired shots killing their mother. Viola Liuzzo was the first white woman killed as a part of the 1960’s Civil Rights struggle.   

Top L: 
Ms. Viola Liuzzo. Courtesy of Ms. Liuzzo’s daughter, Sally Liuzzo-Prado.  R. Memorial to Ms. Liuzzo located near the place of her murder in Lowndes County, Alabama. 

Second: Viola Liuzzo Statue.

Third L: Full view of memorial, R: Plaque under statue.

Bottom: L: Entrance to the park, R: Photo of burial site.

Rubel, David. "The Coming Free: The Struggle for African-American Equality." New York: DK Publishing, 2005. Print.

Liuzzo-Herrington, Penny and Liuzzo-Prado, Sally. Viola Liuzzo. Franklin P. Backus Courthouse, Alexandria, VA.  Interview.

Home of the Brave. Dir. Paola di Florio. Home Vision Entertainment, 2005. Film.

Site Visits
Memorial. Lowndes County, AL. 
Memorial. Lowndes County, AL. 

Viola Liuzzo Park, Detroit, MI.

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield, MI. 


Holy Sepulchre Cemetery Mausoleum, 25800 West 10 Mile Road, Southfield, Michigan 48034. Phone: 248-350-1900.

The History of Miscegenation Laws in Virginia and The Lovings
Richard Loving
 - October 29, 1933, to June 29, 1975
Mildred (Jeter) Loving - July 22, 1939, to May 2, 2008


Virginia's history of laws against miscegenation, (interracial marriage), date back to precolonial United States. In 1607, English settlers established Jamestown, Virginia.  In 1619, the English pirate ship White Lion landed at Point Comfort, present day Hampton and traded the colonist "20 and odd" Africans for food and supplies.

On June 30, 1619, Jamestown convened its first governing body, the Virginia Assembly.  By 1630, one of the earliest references to Blacks appeared in Virginia Law records. The Assembly passed the following legislation in September of 1630: Hugh Davis to be soundly whipped, before an assembly­ of Negroes and others for abusing himself to the dishonor of God and shame of Christians by defiling his body in lying with a Negro, which fault he is to acknowledge next Sabbath day."

Blacks were whipped or banished from the colony for marrying or having sex with a white person. In 1640, a white man had sex with a Black woman and was ordered to confess his sins in church. The Black woman received a harsher punishment.

"Robert Sweet to do penance in church according to the laws of England, for getting a Negro woman with a child and the woman whipt."

A 1691 Virginia Law (Act XVI) specifically prohibited interbreeding or intermarriage between whites and non-whites. If a free white married a negro, mulatto or Indian they were permanently banished from the colony and had to leave within three months from the date of their marriage.  If a free, unmarried white woman gave birth to a mulatto child, she was fined fifteen pounds to be paid to the churchwardens.  The child born from their union was ordered to work as a servant until his or her 30th birthday. The Virginia Assembly fashioned laws regarding white women giving birth to mulatto children in such a way as to not increase the free Black population. 

 States and dates miscegenation laws were first enacted.


Alabama 1822
Arkansas 1838
Delaware 1821
Florida 1832
Georgia 1750
Kentucky 1792
Louisiana 1724
Mississippi 1822
Missouri 1835
North Carolina 1715
Oklahoma 1897
South Carolina 1717
Tennessee 1741
Texas 1837
Virginia 1691
West Virginia 1863

By 1967, all miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the case of Loving v. Virginia.

Laws against miscegenation were common in Virginia and many other states. See Virginia Health Bulletin March 1924 - The New Virginia Law to Preserve Racial Integrity and a letter from W.A. Plecker, M.D. State of Virginia Registrar of Vital Statistics documents below.

Top L, R and Second: Virginia Health Bulletin March 1924. The New Virginia Law to Preserve Racial Integrity. Courtesy of the Library of Virginia. 

Bottom R, L: 1943 letter from W.A. Plecker, M.D. Director of State of Virginia Registrar of Vital Statistics and responsible for enforcing anti-miscegenation laws. Courtesy of the Library of Virginia.

Continued next section.  


The History of Miscegenation Laws in Virginia and The Lovings
Richard Loving - October 29, 1933 to June 29, 1975
Mildred (Jeter) Loving - July 22, 1939 to May 2, 2008

Commonwealth of Virginia charging and sentencing document

Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter grew up together in rural Caroline County, Virginia. By the time Richard was 24 and Mildred was 18, they were in love and Mildred was pregnant. In June of 1958, they traveled to Washington, DC to get married. It was illegal for them to marry in Virginia due to commonwealth laws prohibiting interracial marriages.

When the Lovings returned to Caroline County, the Sherriff was notified. Later that night, the Sheriff arrested the couple for violating Virginia Code 20-59 which states:

Punishment for marriage. If any white person intermarries with a colored person, or any colored person intermarries with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years.

The Lovings pled not guilty but changed their plea to guilty and were found guilty on January 6, 1959. They were sentenced to one year in prison, suspended after living outside of the state for 25 years.

After sentencing, the couple returned to Washington, DC where they lived for five years. However, they missed their families and friends and wanted to return to Virginia. In 1964, Ms. Loving wrote to Bobby Kennedy, the Attorney General at the time, who told her that there was nothing he could do.  He referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union. She contacted the ACLU and requested that they file a motion to vacate the Caroline County Circuit Court's decision. A motion was filed. It was denied.

The case worked its way through the courts and on April 10, 1967, Loving v. Virginia was argued in front of the United States Supreme Court. On June 12, 1967, by a vote of 9-0, the Justices struck down the lower court’s decision. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote:

"Under our constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state."

Top L: Caroline County Court.  R: County jail.
Second L, R: Confederate monument in front of courthouse.

Third L, R: Commonwealth of Virginia charging and sentencing document.
Forth L: Mildred and Richard Loving. R: Grave of Mildred and Richard Loving. 

Bottom: St. Stephens Baptist Church, the family church. 

Guild, June Purcell, "The Struggle for Racial Integrity Black Laws of Virginia Reprinted by Afro-American Historical Association of Fauqier County, Virginia." Lovettsville, 1996, Print.

Hall, Kermi, L. and Ely Jr, James, W., "Loving v. Virginia The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions." Second Edition. New York: Oxford, 2009. Print.

"Arrival of First Africans to Virginia Colony." Web. 

"Brief History of Marriage Meddling in the United States." thirteen,org, Web. 

"1943 letter from W.A. Plecker, M.D. State of Virginia Registrar of Vital Statistics PT 1." Library of Virginia, Web. 

"Loving Decision: 40 Years of Legal Interracial Unions." Web. 

"The New Virginia Law to Preserve Racial Integrity." Web. 

Buirski, Nancy; Conwill, Kinshasha Holman; Hirschkop, Philip; James, Elisabeth Haviland; and Peggy Loving. The Loving Story. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium, Washington, DC. 17 Jan. 2012. Movie Screening and Panel Discussion.

The Loving Story. Dir. Nancy Buirski. HBO, 2012. Film.

Site Visits
Grave of Mildred Loving. Caroline County, VA. 
Grave of Richard Loving. Caroline County, VA. 
St. Stephens Baptist Church. Caroline County, VA. 


St. Stephen’s Baptist Church, Sparta Road, Bowling Green, VA.

The Following Contains Extreme Violence

The Lynching of Mary Turner
Hahira, Georgia

In May of 1918 Sydney Johnson, a Black field hand shot and killed Hampton Smith, a white plantation owner. Several days earlier Smith beat Johnson for not working while he was sick. Beating and abusing workers was a common practice for Smith and resulted in him having a shortage of laborers. Smith used debt peonage to compensate for his lack of workers.  He bailed men out of jail and made them work off their debt. 

Peonage was a system of forced labor used predominantly throughout the south by white local law enforcement. They jailed mostly African American men on false or minor offenses.  Plantation owners, farmers, and others bailed the men out of jail and used them as laborers. In return, the men had to work off their debt; often being told after days and weeks of work that their debt had not yet been paid. The local jurisdictions benefited financially from the bail money.

For more than a week after Smith's death, a white mob searched the area for Johnson and the people they believed responsible for killing Smith. Thirteen people were killed, one of them Mary Turner's husband a Black man. 


Mary Turner, a pregnant 21-year-old African American was enraged by the killing of her husband.  On May 19, 1918, she publicly announced she would swear out warrants for the arrest of the men who killed her husband.  The mob responded with anger and chased her down the street. When they caught her, they took her to Folsom's Bridge on the border of Brooks and Lowndes Counties. 

The Following Contains Extreme Violence 


The mob tied Mary Turner's ankles together, hung her upside down from a tree, set her on fire, and shot her several times. One of the men cut her stomach open. The baby fell to the ground and a member of the mob repeatedly stomped the baby. Turner and her baby were later buried in a shallow grave feet away from where they were murdered close to the location of the history marker.  A whiskey bottle and a cigar marked the grave. 


Sydney Johnson was killed in a shootout with the police. A mob of more than 700 people watched as his genitals were cut off and thrown in the street. A rope was tied around his neck, and he was drugged several miles to a campground where his body was then set on fire.

Views of the historical marker. The marker was dedicated on May 15, 2010, and currently has what appears to be a bullet hole in it. 
Photos taken December 21, 2010.

Rucker, Walter and Upton, James Nathaniel, ed. "Encyclopedia of the American Race Riots." Vol. 1: A-M. Westport: Greenwood Press, Civitas, 2007. Print.

"Defaced sign honoring Georgia lynching victim going to human rights center", Web.


"A pregnant woman’s lynching resonates through the generations", Web.

Dr. George, Mark Patrick. "The Mary Turner Project - The Lynching of Mary Turner." Print.

Site Visit
History Marker. Hahira, GA. 
The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. Baltimore, MD. 

Return to top


All photos property of unless otherwise indicated.