Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
September 15 is the 258th day of the year (259th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 107 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1963, a bomb explodes during Sunday morning services in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls.
The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was a racially motivated terrorist attack on September 15, 1963, by members of a Ku Klux Klan group in Birmingham, Alabama in the United States. The bombing of the African-American church resulted in the deaths of four girls. Although city leaders had reached a settlement in May with demonstrators and started to integrate public places, not everyone agreed with ending segregation. Other acts of violence followed the settlement. The bombing increased support for people working for civil rights. It marked a turning point in the U.S. 1960s Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The three-story Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was a rallying point for civil rights activities through the spring of 1963, and is where the students who marched out of the church to be arrested during the 1963 Birmingham campaign’s Children’s Crusade were trained. The demonstrations led to an agreement in May between the city’s African-American leaders and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to integrate public facilities in the country.
In the early morning of Sunday, September 15, 1963, Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Frank Cash, and Robert Chambliss, members of United Klans of America, a Ku Klux Klan group, planted a box of dynamite with a time delay under the steps of the church, near the basement.
At about 10:22 a.m., when twenty-six children were walking into the basement assembly room for closing prayers of a sermon entitled “The Love That Forgives,” the bomb exploded. According to an interview on NPR on September 15, 2008, Denise McNair’s father stated that the sermon never took place because of the bombing. Four girls, Addie Mae Collins (aged 14), Denise McNair (aged 11), Carole Robertson (aged 14), and Cynthia Wesley (aged 14), were killed in the attack, and 22 additional people were injured, one of whom was Addie Mae Collins’ younger sister, Sarah.
The explosion blew a hole in the church’s rear wall, destroyed the back steps, and left intact only the frames of all but one stained-glass window. The lone window that survived the concussion was one in which Jesus Christ was depicted knocking on a door, although Christ’s face was destroyed. In addition, five cars behind the church were damaged, two of which were destroyed, while windows in the laundromat across the street were blown out.
668 – Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II is assassinated in his bath at Syracuse, Italy.
921 – At Tetin Saint Ludmila is murdered at the command of her daughter-in-law.
994 – Major Fatimid victory over the Byzantine Empire at the Battle of the Orontes.
1556 – Departing from Vlissingen, ex-Holy Roman Emperor Charles V returns to Spain.
1616 – The first non-aristocratic, free public school in Europe is opened in Frascati, Italy.
1762 – Seven Years War: Battle of Signal Hill.
1776 – American Revolutionary War: British forces land at Kip’s Bay during the New York Campaign.
1789 – The United States Department of State is established (formerly known as the “Department of Foreign Affairs”).
1812 – The French army under Napoleon reaches the Kremlin in Moscow.
1812 – War of 1812: A second supply train sent to relieve Fort Harrison is ambushed in the Attack at the Narrows.
1820 – Constitutionalist revolution in Lisbon, Portugal.
1821 – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica jointly declare independence from Spain.
1830 – The Liverpool to Manchester railway line opens.
1831 – The locomotive John Bull operates for the first time in New Jersey on the Camden and Amboy Railroad.
1835 – HMS Beagle, with Charles Darwin aboard, reaches the Galapagos Islands.
1851 – Saint Joseph’s University is founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1862 – American Civil War: Confederate forces capture Harpers Ferry, Virginia.
1873 – Franco-Prussian War: The last German troops leave France upon completion of payment of indemnity.
1883 – The Bombay Natural History Society is founded in Bombay (Mumbai), India.
1894 – First Sino-Japanese War: Japan defeats China in the Battle of Pyongyang.
1916 – World War I: Tanks are used for the first time in battle, at the Battle of the Somme.
1931 – In Scotland, the two-day Invergordon Mutiny against Royal Navy pay cuts begins.
1935 – The Nuremberg Laws deprive German Jews of citizenship.
1935 – Nazi Germany adopts a new national flag with the swastika.
1940 – World War II: The climax of the Battle of Britain, when the Royal Air Force shoots down large numbers of Luftwaffe aircraft.
1942 – World War II: U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Wasp is torpedoed at Guadalcanal.
1944 – Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill meet in Quebec as part of the Octagon Conference to discuss strategy.
1945 – A hurricane in southern Florida and the Bahamas destroys 366 planes and 25 blimps at NAS Richmond.
1947 – RCA releases the 12AX7 vacuum tube.
1947 – Typhoon Kathleen hit the Kanto Region in Japan killing 1,077.
1948 – The F-86 Sabre sets the world aircraft speed record at 671 miles per hour (1,080 km/h).
1950 – Korean War: United States forces land at Incheon
1952 – United Nations gives Eritrea to Ethiopia.
1958 – A Central Railroad of New Jersey commuter train runs through an open drawbridge at the Newark Bay, killing 58.
1959 – Nikita Khrushchev becomes the first Soviet leader to visit the United States.
1961 – Hurricane Carla strikes Texas with winds of 175 miles per hour.
1962 – The Soviet ship Poltava heads toward Cuba, one of the events that sets into motion the Cuban Missile Crisis.
1963 – The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing: Four children killed at an African-American church in Birmingham, Alabama, United States
1966 – U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, responding to a sniper attack at the University of Texas at Austin, writes a letter to Congress urging the enactment of gun control legislation.
1968 – The Soviet Zond 5 spaceship is launched, becoming the first spacecraft to fly around the Moon and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
1981 – The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approves Sandra Day O’Connor to become the first female justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
1981 – The John Bull becomes the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world when the Smithsonian Institution operates it under its own power outside Washington, D.C.
1981 – Vanuatu becomes a member of the United Nations.
1983 – Israeli premier Menachem Begin resigns.
1987 – United States Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze sign a treaty to establish centers to reduce the risk of nuclear war.
1990 – France announces it will send 4,000 troops to the Persian Gulf
1993 – Liechtenstein Prince Hans-Adam II disbands Parliament
1998 – With the landmark merger of WorldCom and MCI Communications completed the day prior, the new MCI WorldCom opens its doors for business.
2000 – The 2000 Summer Olympics are opened in Sydney, Australia
2004 – National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman announces lockout of the players union and cessation of operations by the NHL head office.
2008 – Lehman Brothers files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.