In the years leading up to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, Birmingham had earned a national reputation as a tense, violent and racially segregated city, in which even tentative racial integration of any form was met with violent resistance. Martin Luther King described Birmingham as “probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States”.
The city had no black police officers or firefighters. Given the state’s disenfranchisement of most blacks since the turn of the century, by making voter registration essentially impossible, few of the city’s black residents were registered to vote.
Bombings at black homes and institutions were a regular occurrence, with at least 21 separate explosions recorded at black properties and churches in the eight years before 1963, although none of these explosions had resulted in fatalities.These attacks earned the city the nickname “Bombingham”
The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was an act of white supremacist terrorism which occurred at the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday, September 15, 1963. Four members of a local Ku Klux Klan chapter planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the steps located on the east side of the church
Although the FBI had concluded in 1965 that the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing had been committed by four known Klansmen and segregationists: Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., Herman Frank Cash, Robert Edward Chambliss, and Bobby Frank Cherry, no prosecutions were conducted until 1977, when Robert Chambliss was tried and convicted of the first-degree murder of one of the victims, 11-year-old Carol Denise McNair.
In a revival of effort by states and the federal government to prosecute cold cases from the civil rights era, the state conducted trials in the early 21st century of Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Cherry, who were each convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Herman Cash had died in 1994, and was never charged with his alleged involvement in the bombing.
The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing marked a turning point in the United States during the civil rights movement and contributed to support for passage by Congress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. wiki