November 17, 1951 – Birthdate of Denise McNair – Killed in KKK Bombing of Alabama Church

On this date in history, Denise McNair was born. She would live just eleven years. Denise was one of four children killed during the KKK terrorist attack against the Birmingham, Alabama Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963. Four members of the Klan planted 19 sticks of dynamite with a delayed-time release outside the basement of the church (which had been a rallying point for civil-rights activities).


Twenty-six children were walking into the basement assembly room for closing prayers when the bomb exploded. Twenty-two were injured, and four killed, including Denise, Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Cynthia Wesley (age 14) and Carole Robertson (age 14). Denise was the youngest. She was a student at Center Street Elementary School, where she had many friends, including the future Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

More than 8,000 mourners, but no city officials, attended the funeral service. The four who committed the crime were not convicted until after the case was re-opened several times. (One died before being charged, one was convicted in 1978, and the other two were not convicted until 2000.)

In 1964, Joan Baez recorded this haunting song reproduced in the video below, “Birmingham Sunday,” written by her brother-in-law and fellow folk singer and activist Richard Farina.


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