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Obama Signs Bill To Honor Four Girls Killed

Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; Addie Mae Collins, 14;  and Cynthia Wesley, 14; from left, are shown in these 1963 photos. (AP)

Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; Addie Mae Collins, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14; from left, are shown in these 1963 photos. (AP)

President Barack Obama signs the Congressional Gold Medal Bill on Friday to posthumously honor the four little girls killed in one of the worst acts of violence in the civil rights era.

Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley died when a bomb exploded at the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. on September 15, 1963.

Forty years later, the FBI connected the bombing to the Ku Klux Klan and two men were convicted.

Among those at the bill signing will be Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell, who co-sponsored the bill.

“It’s a very proud moment for me, both as an American and as an Alabamian,” Sewell told Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti. “I great up in Selma, Alabama, and it was because of the sacrifices that were made by so many, including the families of these four little girls, that I get an opportunity to walk the halls of Congress as the first African American woman from Alabama.”

The bombing in Birmingham marked a turning point in the civil rights movement.

“It was the loss of innocent children that really propelled the civil rights movement — it sparked the nation’s consciousness,” she said. “I believe that out of the painful past of Alabama has come much progress because of that tragedy.”

Video: “What Murdered These Four Girls?”

Guest:

  • Terri Sewell, Alabama congresswoman who co-sponsored the bill.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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