Wilton Robinson: One man's journey to the mountain
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“The first time everyone marched for jobs. Now we had a starting point. We could celebrate our accomplishments but also look at what needs to be done,” said Mr. Robinson.
50th Anniversary Memorial Service at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
Wilton Robinson sat in the upstairs gallery of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on Sunday, September 15, exactly 50 years after the tragic bombing of the church’s Sunday school that took the lives of four little girls – Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNairk, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson.
He had been invited to participate in this celebration by the church’s Pastor, Reverend Arthur Price Jr, who had made the journey north last year to speak at the Roosevelt Public Library. Mr. Robinson is the library’s President.
The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is a monument to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The church served as the organizational and staging background for youth marches of the 1963 Birmingham Campaign. Ultimately, Birmingham was the site of one of the most dramatic segregation confrontations during the nonviolent movement.
Fifty years later, invited dignitaries sat at the front of the church to commemorate those times. There was Reverend Jessie Jackson, Andrew Young and Reverend Joseph Lowry. Bernice King, Dr, King’s sister, was present and Attorney General Eric Holder presented the Congressional Medal of Freedom to the families of the four children killed that terrible day.
“As I sat there, it took me back to when I was a child,” said Mr. Robinson. “I’d go to church and watch all the elders in the front of the church. The elders were recognized as people of stature in the community,” he said. “It was very moving to be with so many people who have been a force in the civil rights movement, especially for someone of my background, someone from the South.”
Mr. Robinson’s great grandfather died at 103 years of age on the very land in Mobile, Alabama where he was once a slave. “I thought about my great grandfather, about my grandparents,” said Mr. Robinson.