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Bending Toward Justice chronicles the decades-long fight to avenge the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, culminating in Doug Jones' prosecution of the last living bombers. On September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL was bombed, killing four young girls. It was clear that white supremacists were responsible. The community activists who gathered at the church had recently succeeded in desegregating Birmingham public schools, and this was an act of revenge.
The girls did not die in vain; the public outrage brought on by this senseless tragedy was crucial to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But who were the perpetrators? Alabamians would have to wait a long time to find out. Due to reluctant witnesses and racial prejudice, the FBI closed the case without any indictments.
But as Martin Luther King, Jr. famously claimed, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." When William Baxley became state Attorney General years later, he reopened the case, ultimately convicting one of the bombers in 1977. Another suspect passed away in 1994, and author Doug Jones himself prosecuted and convicted the final two perpetrators—a correction of an outrageous miscarriage of justice that was nearly forty years in the making.
Bending Toward Justice is a detailed account of this key moment in our national struggle for equality and the long road to prosecuting those responsible for the tragedy, related by an author who played a major role in the investigation. It is destined to become the next addition to our civil rights canon.
Doug Jones is the first Democrat to win a US Senate election in Alabama since 1992. As US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Jones prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members for their roles in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, a racially-motivated act of terrorism that claimed the lives of four young girls and helped turn the tide in the struggle for civil rights. He also secured an indictment against Centennial Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph.
- ISBN-13: 9781250201447
- ISBN-10: 1250201446
- Publisher: St. Martin\'s Press
- Publish Date: March 2019
Bending Toward Justice
On the morning of September 15, 1963, an explosion at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killed four girls gathered in the church’s ladies’ lounge and injured 22 other people. Ku Klux Klan members were immediately suspected of bombing the African-American church. But years passed, and for a variety of reasons, the suspected domestic terrorists walked free.
In November 1977, national attention was drawn back to the case and to the city once nicknamed “Bombingham” when attorney Bill Baxley successfully prosecuted a suspect in the bombing. A young law student, Doug Jones, looked on from a balcony. He was raised only a few miles from 16th Street Baptist Church, yet like many young white people at the time, Jones was largely ignorant of the strife faced by children of color. And though that trial was successful, more bombing suspects remained free.
In Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing That Changed the Course of Civil Rights, current Alabama U.S. Senator Jones recounts the church bombing that became a rallying point for the civil rights movement, as well as the criminal cases against the two surviving bombing suspects that he prosecuted in 2001 and 2002 as a U.S. attorney. Some people around the nation—and certainly in Birmingham—argued that the past should stay in the past. A prison guard once told Jones that the elderly bombers shouldn’t be left to die in jail. Jones disagrees. Throughout the book, he reiterates the importance of justice—for the girls’ families, certainly, but also for all people affected by this act of terrorism. Bending Toward Justice is a vivid journey toward that understanding. As Jones and co-author Greg Truman lay out the details of these pivotal civil rights cases, they also examine how much the country has learned—and how much it still has to grow.