BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Fifty-six years ago today four girls died in a Birmingham church bombing.
Homer Coke is a survivor of the bombing, and he shared with WHNT News 19 how he hopes our state can honor those who lost their lives that day.
Coke was born and raised in Birmingham. He is the son of H.D. Coke who was an African American leader. Coke said his father was president of the local NAACP and was very involved in the civil rights movement.
The Coke family attended 16th Street Baptist Church, which at that time was more than just a place of worship. During the 1960’s many of the Birmingham civil rights protest marches started at the churches steps.
“Whenever there was things going as far as having to boycott certain businesses or marches that we probably had to have most of that stuff was going on at the church,” said Coke.
The city was divided and the Klu Klux Klan showed violent hatred toward African Americans. On September 15th, 1963, 10-year-old Coke saw that hatred, first-hand.
“Right during the end of Sunday school and before church began is when my church was bombed,” Coke said.
Four young girls lost their lives, they were Coke’s close friends.
“Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair and Carole Robertson were members of the organization I was in called Jack and Jill,” Coke said.
Now as we look back and honor their memory Coke said the lesson is clear.
“Whether it has to do with skin or not, whatever the hatred has to do with, whenever you think about it, it doesn’t hurt the person that you are hating as much as the person who is doing the hating,” Coke said.
Love is always the answer.
Coke said, “Like I said. My dad’s initials are H.D. and he used to say that H.D. stood for honey and darling and we all know that honey is sweet and nothing like being a darling so hey, there you go.”
Outrage over the death of the four young girls is said to have sparked increased support for the civil rights movement. So instead of stopping change, the violence encouraged change.