Statement ● Human and Civil Rights
For Immediate Release: 
April 24, 2013
Contact Info: 

Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130

WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in support of H.R. 360, which would posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, who were killed 50 years ago in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.  Below are his remarks and a link to the video:

Click here to watch the video.

“I thank Congresswoman Sewell for her leadership and for yielding this time. And I thank my good friend, Spencer Bachus, for his leadership as well – and congratulate him and his family for the courage they showed at a time of great stress that this Gold Medal reflects. Mr. Speaker, the recognition for the victims of this terrible tragedy that befell our whole country on September 15, 1963, is absolutely appropriate. And it is an opportunity for us to say, once again, the respect we have for these young girls – respect we have for their families. I say our whole country because a wound opened in the soul of America that day from a heinous act of racism and terror.

“Those who set a bomb inside the 16th Street Baptist Church - actually, it was outside the wall - that Sunday did so because they believed in a nation where not all are created equal. Where not all are entitled to life and liberty. On that day, many Americans who turned away with indifference could no longer look away. Since that day, we have forcefully declared to future generations that America will not be that nation that looks away.

“In America we strive to protect our children from hurt and harm, no matter what the color of their skin, their faith, or their national origin. We hold fast to the values of a memory of these four little girls who were killed that day, not the twisted, warped, hateful ideals of their killers. Their names have been mentioned but warrant re-mentioning: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Denise McNair. Four of God's children, four beautiful assets of America. Beautiful young girls. If you go down into the basement of the church, you see their pictures, you see the memorial, and your heart cries. They were brutally murdered while attending Sunday school, as the Leader, Spencer Bachus, as Terri Sewell has related.

“My colleagues, let us honor their lives and their faith in the face of the evil of segregation and prejudice and hate. Let us remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the funeral of three of those four little girls. He said this: 'They have something to say to each of us in their death. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.'

“That fight began with the Declaration of Independence. That we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men – I’m sure Jefferson meant mankind, women as well – are endowed by God, not by the Constitution, not by votes on this Floor, by God with unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These four little girls had those robbed that day.

“Let us recommit ourselves to that proposition and to unrelentingly and courageously ensure that that dream, that that promise, is fulfilled, for all of the little children of this nation and for all the adults as well. Let us pass this bill, Mr. Speaker, and send the message that we will never, ever forget their memory.”