On the 60th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson spoke on the importance of remembering the difficult moments of racial inequality in U.S. history.
"The work of our time is maintaining that hard-won freedom, and to do that, we're going to need the truth – the whole truth – about our past," Jackson told attendees at the church during a speech on Friday, ABC News reports.
"We must teach it to our children and preserve it for theirs," she said. "Knowledge of the past is what enables us to mark our forward progress. If we're going to continue to move forward as a nation, we can't allow concern about discomfort to displace knowledge, truth, or history."
According to the Associated Press, members of the Ku Klux Klan planted dynamite outside the church under a set of stairs on Sept. 15, 1963. The resulting explosion killed four girls: 11-year-old Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins. Addie Mae's sister, Sarah Collins Rudolph, survived but was severely injured in the explosion, causing her to lose an eye.
The bombing took place two weeks after the Rev. Martin King Luther delivered his historic "I Have a Dream Speech" in Washington D.C. and eight months after then-Georgia governor George Wallace proclaimed, "segregation forever."
As a mother of two teenage girls, Jackson emphasized the impact that took place due to the bombing.
"Those girls were just getting started. They could have broken barriers. They could have shattered ceilings. They could have grown up to be doctors or lawyers or judges appointed to serve on the highest court in our land. They could have been any one of us. And we could have been any one of them," she said.
Jackson, who was sworn into the Supreme Court last year, is the nation's first black female justice. She was nominated by President Joe Biden to replace Justice Stephen Breyer in February 2022 and was confirmed by the Senate in April 2022.
For some, her appearance at First Baptist on the 60th anniversary of the bombing marked a sense of progress for civil rights after these years.
"It has been 60 years in the making. Dr. Martin Luther King said that these girls would not have died in vain and our speaker, Ketanji Brown Jackson, is the personification of that today. She is that hope," former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones said.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.
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