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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – In the world of foundry art, there is a saying that every bronze has a story.
But there is no story quite like the one being told by sculptor Elizabeth MacQueen, the mastermind behind the monument dedicated to the four girls who died in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963.
She and her team created the bronze sculpture at the Artworks Foundry in Berkeley, California.
They’ve been racing the clock since May to complete the memorial that is set to be revealed to the world in Birmingham.
MacQueen says she would have preferred a year and a half to perfect the sculpture, but instead she had three and a half months.
The story the bronze sculpture tells is one that is highly familiar to many who have studied the civil rights movement. It was the moment that galvanized the movement.
Four little girls were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.
Now, the likeness of those four girls – Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley – will be captured in a way others can view beyond the history books.
The six doves in the bronze memorial tell another story, one less familiar to many people. The doves tell a story about what happened on September 15, 1963.
There’s one dove for each of the girls, but there’s also two additional doves on the sculpture. Those additional doves are for the two boys who were shot that same day.
“There has not been much said about them,” MacQueen explained. “Even though it was not at the same site of the bombing, it still happened the same day later that afternoon.”
Their story is the tale many do not know. Johnnie Robinson was shot in the back by a Birmingham police officer, and the fifth dove represents him.
The final dove represents Virgil Ware, a young boy who was killed while riding a bike with his brother. The two were said to be unaware of the horror that had unfolded earlier that day at the church.
When the statue is unveiled on Saturday, the bronze will tell the collective story of the lives lost in Birmingham on that day, September 15, 1963. In the end, the events helped turn the tide from hate to hope that persists 50 years later.
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