Remembering the two boys killed same day as church bombing

The tragedy beyond the church bombing

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Addie, Carol, Denise, and Cynthia. They are names well-known among the people of Birmingham. But Johnnie and Virgil are two names maybe not everyone has heard.

September 15th, 1963. A bomb goes off at 10:22 a.m. at the 16th Street Baptist Church killing four and injuring 22 others. It was an act of gross domestic terrorism. But the violence didn’t end there.

“Later that same day, unknown to many people, two African-American boys were killed in separate incidents,” says President and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Andrea Taylor.

13-year-old Virgil Ware was riding on the handlebars of his brother’s bike when he was struck by two bullets and collapsed on the ground. His killer - 16-year-old Larry Sims - served just six months in a juvenile detention center. 16-year-old Johnnie Robinson was shot in the back by a police officer. The officer alleged Robinson was throwing rocks at cars.

“It was just a tragic, tragic day in every sense of the word. And sadly, 56 years later, we still see now on an all-too-regular basis acts of domestic terrorism,” said Taylor.

Taylor wants to shed a light specifically on the young African American men in our society.

“Young, African-American males are still endangered in this country in terms of the number of random killings of defenseless individuals,” said Taylor.

And if we’re going to put a stop to it, she says, it requires the entire community rallying around the issue.

“It doesn’t matter what neighborhood, what community, because of the color of their skin, they become targets for other people’s hate,” said Taylor.

Taylor believes this anniversary should be a reminder to not take our personal security for granted, and at the same time understand how hate happens.

“We need to constantly be diligent and vigilant in making sure that that kind of murder and terrorism does not continue,” said Taylor.

The anniversary of the bombing is this Sunday. There will have a moment of silence and a screening of Spike Lee’s movie Four Little Girls. Several dignitaries will also be there including presidential candidate Joe Biden and Senator Doug Jones.

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