Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cash or medals for victims of '63 KKK bomb?

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Relatives of four black girls killed when Ku Klux Klan members bombed an Alabama church are split over how to mark the crime 50 years later, with some favouring a congressional medal honouring the victims and others seeking financial compensation.

Sisters of two victims said Friday they favour a proposed Congressional Gold Medal honouring the girls and don't want money for the decades of suffering endured by their families, differing with relatives of two other girls.

Dianne Braddock vividly recalls the day the powerful blast killed her 14-year-old sister, Carole Robertson, and she said a national honour would help her heal far more than any amount of money.

"I think the congressional medal brings the country together and makes a statement about where we are as a nation," said Braddock, of Laurel, Maryland.

Lisa McNair, the younger sister of 11-year-old Denise McNair, said she and her parents favour the medal but aren't interested in restitution, reparations or any other form of compensation.

"That's not our issue," said McNair, born a year after her sister died on Sept. 15, 1963.

Robertson and McNair died along with Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Morris, also known as Cynthia Wesley, when a bomb planted by Ku Klux Klansmen went off outside Sixteenth Street Baptist Church before worship on a Sunday morning. Three KKK members were convicted years later. Two are dead, and one is still in prison.

The bombing drew national attention to racially segregated Birmingham, where authorities earlier that year used fire hoses and police dogs to turn back black demonstrators marching for equal rights.

The blast critically injured Addie Mae's sister, Sarah, who lost an eye but recovered and later married. Sarah Collins Rudolph, speaking in an interview with The Associated Press this week, said she is now seeking millions in financial compensation and would not accept the medal.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 13, 2013 A26

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