VCU Libraries Gallery

History in Your Hands: Richmond and Birmingham, September 1963

On September 15, 1963 a group of four white supremacists placed a bomb under the front steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, an African-American church in Birmingham, Alabama. The bomb exploded, killing four young girls and injuring twenty-two other church-goers. 

Although the FBI had concluded in 1965 that the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing had been committed by four known Ku Klux Klansmen and segregationists: Thomas Edwin Blanton, Jr.; Herman Frank Cash; Robert Edward Chambliss; and Bobby Frank Cherry, no prosecutions ensued until 1977.

The taking of innocent lives shocked the nation and the world, and brought increased attention and sympathy to the civil rights movement. This exhibit reveals how some citizens of Richmond, Virginia responded in the days immediately following this terrible crime. 

    Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama

Photograph by Jet Lowe, Historic American Buildings Survey - Historic American Buildings Survey Library of Congress HABS ALA,37-BIRM,33-5 via Wikimedia Commons


Every archival collection holds a story. Manuscripts and artifacts bear witness to past events, but only a careful researcher can piece together the facts of history and reveal the narrative within the collection. VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives houses many fascinating primary source materials that wait for inquisitive minds to study them. History in Your Hands exhibits present featured manuscript collections that we believe merit further research. Only when you take "history in your hands" can you begin the process that will allow the full story to be shared.

If you have any questions or comments regarding these materials or this exhibition, please contact the Special Collections and Archives staff in James Branch Cabell Library.