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Sarah Collins Rudolph was only 12 years old when white supremacy terrorists bombed her Birmingham, Alabama, church on a Sunday morning in 1963, killing four Black girls, including her sister.
With last week marking 57 years since the tragic bombing, her attorneys are seeking an apology and compensation from the state of Alabama.
Blinded by the bombing’s shattered glass, Rudolph was rescued by church deacon, Samuel Rutledge, and hospitalized. She says she thinks about it every day, and still sees the scars on her face every time she looks at her reflection in the mirror. She even ended up losing an eye in the bombing.
In a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey this week, attorneys for Rudolph, often known as the “fifth little girl” and a social justice speaker, said she has never received an apology for what happened at her church — a meeting place for civil rights activists and a target of the Ku Klux Klan.
According to VICE News, Rudolph didn’t get support, nor medical care, nor counseling, for an act that her lawyers said was motivated by the rhetoric of then-Gov. George Wallace, who was elected a year prior to the bombing on a starkly segregationist platform.
“While social justice is always a worthy cause, given recent events, now is the time for Ms. Collins Rudolph to receive long overdue justice,” attorneys Ishan Bhabha, Alison Stein, and Caroline Cease of the Jenner & Block firm, wrote in a letter to Ivey, dated Sept. 14. “While the State of Alabama did not place the bomb next to the church, its Governor and other leaders at the time played an undisputed role in encouraging its citizens to engage in racial violence, including the violence that stole the lives of four little girls, and irreparably injured a fifth, the morning of September 15, 1963.”
Throughout American history, government officials have covertly colluded and even outwardly participated in the destruction of Black lives. While there isn’t an apology sincere enough or compensation with enough commas to bring back their loved ones, surviving victims such as Rudolph – at the very least – deserve acknowledgement for the systemic fatalities against Black bodies.
Rudolph says, “The police was involved. The mayor, the governor. They just hated our color. We couldn’t even call the police if we wanted. All of them in the office was Ku Klux Klan.”
Rudolph has returned to Sixteenth Street Baptist Church a few times. She says the church mails her a letter to remind her of the memorial service every year. But her first time actually speaking at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing memorial service was in 2017.
Sarah Collins Rudolph has yet to receive an apology or recognition from the state of Alabama.
The Black Wall Street Times reached out to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, however, a response was not returned at the time of this article’s publication.