Today (Sept. 15) marks 59 years since the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four girls.
Sarah Collins Rudolph was known as the “Fifth Little Girl” after surviving the infamous attack, which was depicted in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary 4 Little Girls. The attack took the lives of Denise McNair, 11, and three 14-year-olds: Carole Robertson, Cynthia Morris, also referred to as Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins, who was Rudolph’s older sister. Rudolph, who was 12 at the time, lost her eye and still has pieces of glass inside her body and has yet to be compensated by the state of Alabama.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey apologized to Rudolph two years ago for the “untold pain and suffering” of the bombing, but said legislative involvement was needed in order for her to receive compensation. Both the church and the surrounding Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument received government money for renovations, but Rudolph says nothing has been done for her since.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Rudolph said she still incurs medical expenses from the explosion, including a $90 bill she gets every few months for work on the prosthetic she wears in place of the right eye that was destroyed. Rudolph believes she is due millions. “She deserves justice in the form of compensation for the grievous injuries, and costs, she has had to bear for almost 60 years,” Rudolph’s attorney Ishan Bhabha said. “We will continue to pursue any available avenues to get Sarah the assistance she needs and deserves.”
Five girls were gathered in a downstairs bathroom at 16th Street Baptist Church when a bomb planted by KKK members went off outside, blowing a huge hole in the brick wall killing the four girls. Three KKK members convicted of murder in the bombing years later died in prison, and a fourth suspect died without ever being charged.
According to the news outlet, Rudolph revealed she has spent a lifetime dealing with physical and mental pain from the bombing. Despite her injuries and lingering stress disorders, Rudolph provided testimony that helped lead to the convictions of the men accused of planting the bomb, and she’s written a book about her life, titled “The 5th Little Girl.”