"Then the crackle and that clatter and the crinkle of the glass
Fell upon the people from the power of blast
The face of Jesus was crumbled into sand
Nearby the gold ring on her hand"
--Phil Ochs, "On Her Hand a Golden Ring" (1963)
Until Justice Rolls Down: The Birmingham Church Bombing Case
It was a time when Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders rallied black youth and adults to march for their civil rights, a time when the Ku Klux Klan was active in cities and throughout the countryside of the Deep South, employing 19th-century tactics to intimidate blacks to stay “in their place.” It was also the year that the worst act of terrorism in the entire civil rights movement occurred just as Birmingham, Alabama, was coming under close national scrutiny.
This book tells the story of one grim Sunday in September 1963 when an intentionally planted cache of dynamite ripped through the walls of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and ended the dreams and the lives of four young black girls. Their deaths spurred the Kennedy administration to send an army of FBI agents to Alabama and led directly to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. When the Justice Department was unable to bring anyone to trial for this heinous crime, a young Alabama attorney general named Bill Baxley began his own investigation to find the perpetrators. In 1977, 14 years after the bombing, Baxley brought one Klansman to trial and, in a courtroom only blocks from the bombed church (now a memorial to the victims), persuaded a jury to return a guilty verdict. More than 20 years later two other perpetrators were tried for the bombing, found guilty, and remanded to prison.
Frank Sikora has used the court records, FBI reports, oral interviews, and newspaper accounts to weave a story of spellbinding proportions. A reporter by profession, Sikora tells this story compellingly, explaining why the civil rights movement had to be successful and how Birmingham had to change.