President Obama gave the United States’ most prestigious civilian honor to four slain African- American girls who lost their lives in a church bombing in 1963.
The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair, killed at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
The victims were slain during a time where civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought to end segregation. The massive uproar the incident caused helped lead to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
“This medal will serve as a compelling reminder of the sacrifices so many freedom fighters made to help us achieve equality and social change,”Terri Sewell, a sponsor of the bill, told Reuters.
In attendance to the White House signing ceremony were Birmingham Mayor William Bell and Doug Jones, who prosecuted the last two church bombers in 2001 and 2002. Loved ones of Denise McNair and Carole Robertson also attended the signing.
Lisa McNair, the sister of Denise McNair expressed her gratitude for this prestigious honor given in rememberance of the victims.
“We feel that this honor given by Congress means that our great country recognizes the sacrifices made for freedom in our country.”