- NAME: Carole Robertson
- BIRTH DATE: April 24, 1949
- DEATH DATE: September 15, 1963
- Did You Know?: Three men were convicted of murdering Carole Robertson long after her death, in trials held between 1977 and 2002.
- EDUCATION: Wilkerson Elementary School, Parker High School
- PLACE OF DEATH: Birmingham, Alabama
- Full Name: Carole Rosamond Robertson
- AKA: Carole Robertson
Best Known For
Carole Robertson and three other young girls were killed when a Birmingham church was bombed by members of the Ku Klux Klan on September 15, 1963.
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Born on April 24, 1949, Carole Robertson grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. A good student who loved reading and dancing, she attended the city's 16th Street Baptist Church. On September 15, 1963, a 14-year-old Robertson was killed, along with three other young victims, when her church was bombed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Their tragic deaths led to more support for the Civil Rights Movement.
"I would like to remember not only the terror that claimed [Carole Robertson's] life and that of her Sunday-school friends, but also the positive lives they claimed for themselves as teenage girls."
"These lives were far too short. And it is when we realize life is short that we focus on what matters and on who matters. It is why we retreat from the noise to celebrate four young women whose story should be told and re-told."
Born on April 24, 1949, Carole Rosamond Robertson grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where her family had deep roots. With her father, Alvin, her mother, Alpha, an older sister, Dianne, and an older brother, Alvin Jr., Carole lived in Birmingham's Smithfield neighborhood, an African-American section of the city.
Alvin was an educator with an interest in music, and Carole was a musical child herself. She sang in the chorus at Wilkerson Elementary School, played the clarinet and was a member of Parker High School's marching band. In addition to reading and studying—Carole was a high-achieving student—she participated in Saturday dance lessons, the science club, Girl Scouts and Jack and Jill of America, a civically minded youth and family organization (in addition to working as a school librarian, Alpha Robertson served as a regional director for the group).
Having seen 50 racially targeted bombings since 1945, Carole Robertson's hometown was sometimes called "Bombingham." Though her parents wanted to protect their daughter, not allowing her to go out alone at night, the family also continued to lead a regular existence. One part of their routine was attending services at the 16th Street Baptist Church, a nerve center for the city's African-American community that had also served as a gathering place for leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
On September 15, 1963, a Sunday, Carole went to church and attended a Sunday school class. While she was preparing for a "Youth Day" service, a bomb went off at 10:22 a.m., killing the 14-year-old. Three other young girls were killed in the blast—14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley, and 11-year-old Denise McNair—and more than 20 other people were injured. Horrified by the attack, protests followed in Birmingham, during which two African-American boys were killed, one by a police officer.
After identifying his daughter's body, Alvin Robertson came home and broke a porch door in his grief. Though the three other victims had a funeral service together, Carole's family chose to hold a private service on the Tuesday after the attack—as her sister, Dianne, later explained, "The world was upset and hurt, but it was our family's grief." The bombing had shocked the entire country, and in its aftermath support grew for the Civil Rights Act, which became law in 1964.
Ku Klux Klan member Robert "Dynamite" Chambliss was arrested after the bombing, but was only found guilty of possessing dynamite. Years later, Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley had Chambliss charged with murder.
Visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BRCI), a museum, research center and teaching facility in Birmingham, Alabama. BRCI is dedicated to documenting the American Civil Rights Movement, and promoting civil and human rights worldwide through education.
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Famous People Born in 1949 88 people in this group
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