Connecting 50 years of history

Birmingham attorney, Chervis Isom, was astounded when he read in Carolyn McKinstry’s book, While the World Watched, that there was no permanent memorial to the four girls who were killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963.

He picked up the phone and called McKinstry, and though they had never met, a bond was quickly established between the two. They talked about the need for a monument and soon had put together a nonprofit committee, Four Spirits. Inc. to raise the funds to build the memorial. McKinstry, who was a survivor of the blast and has taken the Birmingham story around the world through her Ministry of Reconciliation and Forgiveness, agreed to serve as the chair of the committee.

The 50th Anniversary was coming up and everyone agreed that would be the ideal time to unveil the memorial, but the committee needed to raise $250,000 to commission and install the statue. Isom turned to an old friend, Marvin Engel, for advice on how best to establish the fund in such a short time. Mr. Engel recommended that he talk to the Community Foundation. The Community Foundation was able to serve as a fiscal agent for Four Spirits, Inc. in addition to providing a $25,000 grant for the memorial. The City of Birmingham donated the space at Kelly Ingram Park, in view of the steps of Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church.

The memorial, designed by world-renown sculptor and Birmingham native, Elizabeth McQueen, was unveiled on September 14, 2013, the day before the 50th Anniversary of the bombing.