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QUIT PLAYIN: It’s Tick-Tock Dummy!

By Vincent L. Hall

Tick-Tock Dummy!

Sunday, September 15, 1963, was just another day in the life of four little African American girls at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. However, by 10:22 a.m. that day, it became evident that there was a different subject on the Sunday School syllabus. The history of American apartheid and disenfranchisement was the theme!

The Congressional court summoned by the late John F. Kennedy and led by President Lyndon Johnson was solidly in deference to many Southerners. The Civil Rights Bill and Voting Rights Act passed in Congress. Some historians speculate that of all the vile and vicious attacks by the Klan and other supremacist militias, killing these young girls was the most disgusting, but paid the highest dividends.

Some of the Civil rights activists of that day placed the blame squarely on Alabama’s Governor, George Wallace. Just one week before the bombing, Wallace either brazenly declared or properly prophesied these murders. The Governor of Alabama and the chief spokesperson for “states’ rights told the New York Times that to stop integration, Alabama needed a “few first-class funerals.”

There is no doubt that Wallace wanted a “King funeral,” but he had to settle with the deaths of four little princesses studying to become queens.


According to a Washington Post story the next day, “Thousands of hysterical Negroes poured into the area around the church, and police fought for two hours, firing rifles into the air to control them. When the crowd broke up, scattered shootings and stonings erupted through the city.”

Birmingham Police killed two Negro teens, Johnny Robinson and Virgil Ware, 16 and 13, respectively.

Robert Chambliss, a card-carrying cadet of the Ku Klux Klan, was identified as the church bomber. A witness alleged that he placed 19 sticks of dynamite under the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church’s steps. Chambliss was arrested and charged with murder and the possession of 122 sticks of dynamite without a permit.

Nevertheless, on October 8, 1963, Chambliss, aka “Dynamite Bob,” was found not guilty of murder. Instead, he received a hundred-dollar fine and a six-month jail sentence for having the dynamite. The church bombing and this blatant betrayal of the law marked a turning point in the civil rights movement. White Northerners were incensed.

They had witnessed the peaceful assembly of 250,000 protesters two weeks earlier. The March on Washington, spearheaded by Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream,” offered an opportunity.


Instead, the church bombing served as a pointed example of the racism and hatred King denounced. In 14 days, America went from hopeful to dreadful. The nation moved from a “new morning” to needless mourning. In November 1977, Chambliss was tried again for the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. At 73, Chambliss was foundBguilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Chambliss died in an Alabama prison on October 29, 1985. But the lives of the four little girls should never die.

These martyrs would never know they were destined for eternal fame. 60 years ago. It belittles and besmirches their legacy that African Americans must be courted and coaxed to go to the polls.

After the deaths of 14-year-olds Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Adie Mae Collins, and 11-year-old Denise McNair, we should always be the first to arrive and the last to leave whenever a ballot is available.

George Wallace’s push for White Supremacy and segregation seemed defeated in 1963.


Or was it? America’s public schools are more segregated today than in some regions before Brown v. Board. Dallas ranks last in the nation when it comes to economic inclusion.

The GOP and the fragments of the movement left in the post-Trump era are grinding their weapons in Red State Legislatures to hold on to the spirit of George Wallace without ever mentioning his name.

If he were alive today, he could dust off his 1963 speeches and leave presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis in the dust.

For the sake and in respect to the innocent lives of four little girls whose frames were tossed onto America’s fiery grill of racism, you have to take a stand. You need to vote intelligently, which requires you to do more than text, tweet, or TikTok. BTW, that’s why they call it tick-tock dummy…Your time for fun and games is up Negro.

Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.


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