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The civil rights era, Alabama’s congressional delegation introduced legislation Wednesday to bestow the Congressional Gold Medal to the four black girls who were killed in the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church.

If approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate, Addie Mae Collins, 14; Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14, would posthumously receive the nation’s highest civilian award.

They would join the ranks of the Tuskegee Airmen, World War II Native American Code Talkers, Apollo 11 moon astronaut Neil Armstrong, World War II Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs),Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King, civil rights leader Dorothy Height, former British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Tony Blair, and former South African President Nelson Mandela as recipients.

“It is important to reflect, especially for each new generation, how an act of evil that killed four innocent young girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church jarred the conscience of the American people and led to permanent change in our society,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus, a Republican and co-sponsor of the bill. “The presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal would be a fitting commemoration of the significance of their lives and, from the vantage point we have 50 years later, of the welcome progress on racial equality that has occurred in Birmingham and our nation as a whole.”

Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, another co-sponsor and the first black woman from Alabama to be elected to Congress, said the Gold Medal for the girls would speak to all who died during the turbulent fight for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.

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