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“Ties That Bind Two Holy Cities: Reflections in Charleston by Survivors of the 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing”

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Sarah Collins Rudolph, Junie Collins Williams, and Janie Collins Simpkins being interview in CofC Special Collections by Debi Chard.

“Ties That Bind Two Holy Cities” is the first series of the College of Charleston’s new Race and Social Justice Initiative, funded by Google and led  by the Avery Research Center for African American History, African American Studies, and Addlestone Library. Additional supporters include SunTrust Banks and the International African American Museum (IAAM). Over the next eighteen months, the College will host various events to promote dialogue about race and social justice in Charleston, South Carolina, and beyond.

The featured event is an open community forum held on Tuesday, September 15th at the Burke High School Auditorium at 6:30pm, with doors opening at 6:00pm. Speakers will include Sarah Collins Rudolph, Junie Collins Williams, and Janie Collins Simpkins. Their sister, Addie Mae Collins, was one of the four victims of the church bombing that took place in Birmingham on September 15, 1963. A representative of the Emanuel AME Church will also speak. The Mother Emanuel Clara K. Washington Choir will perform musical selections beginning at 6:00pm to honor the victims and survivors of these tragedies.

Historic Background
On September 15, 1963, four Collins siblings attended the 16th Street Baptist Church Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. Sarah Collins was in the church basement with her sister Addie Mae Collins (14), and her friends Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14), and Cynthia Wesley (14), when dynamite planted by white supremacists in the Ku Klux Klan exploded and killed four of the young women. Unlike her sister and peers, Sarah survived the bombing. That same day, two young African American males, Johnny Robinson (16) and Virgil Ware (13), were killed amidst tensions in the aftermath of the church bombing. Ware was killed by a white teenager; Robinson was shot in the back by a white police officer.

“It is important that we remember that the brutal attack on Mother Emanuel happened within a larger context,” College of Charleston’s Dean of Libraries John White said about the upcoming events. “White terrorism aimed at African American churches has a long history. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Birmingham, Alabama, which faced a similar, unspeakable tragedy in 1963. We hope that an honest discussion about this history of racial violence can help us make certain that we never have to confront another tragedy like this in Birmingham, Charleston, or elsewhere.”

Event coordinator Dr. Tracy Snipe is a Charleston native now with Wright State University in Dayton, OH, and is currently completing a biography of Sarah Collins Rudolph, entitled The Fifth Girl: Sole Survivor of the 16th Street Bombing, and a biography of Junie Collins Williams, entitled Saving the Best Wine for Last: Remembrances of the 16th St. Bombing.

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