Post submitted by Samantha Master, former HRC Youth & Campus Engagement Manager

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombings in Birmingham, Alabama that killed Addie Mae Collins, 14, Cynthia Robertson, 14, Carole Wesley, 14 and Denise McNair.  Dubbed “Birmingham Sunday,” the bombing changed the course of the civil rights movement, and highlighted just how dangerous legalized discrimination could be.

To honor the lives of these four precious girls whose deaths were one of the catalysts for the March on Washington, President Obama will also posthumously award them the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which will be presented to their families.   

Indeed, progress has been made in the 50 years since the 1963 March on Washington, considered by many historians as the emotional and spiritual pinnacle of the civil rights movement.  However, we are still marching towards the dream Dr. King imagined.

On August 8, President Barack Obama announced that he would award the late civil rights advocate Bayard Rustin a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the country. Rustin, an openly gay man and chief architect of the March on Washington, exposed a young Martin Luther King, Jr. to Gandhi’s teachings of nonviolence, which became central to King’s organizing framework and the legacy of the civil rights movement.

Fifty years later, Rustin’s call for coalitional politics to address systemic ills like unemployment, discrimination and police brutality remain incredibly germane to today’s social justice movement. As Rev. MacArthur Flournoy, HRC’s Director of Faith Partnerships and Mobilization, indicated in his address at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington,“It is not enough that we stand up, but we stand together.”

For more ways to honor "Birmingham Sunday" this weekend, please visit

Filed under: Coming Out, Community

Don't miss a post

Sign up for RSS feeds

Have a news tip?

Share it with us

Community discussion

Read the guidelines