Members of the University community gathered in the Rackham Amphitheatre on Friday for a screening of “Four Little Girls,” a documentary that follows the four girls killed in the bombing of a Birmingham, Ala. church in 1963.

Dale Long, who witnessed the bombing as an 11 year-old, facilitated a discussion following the event. Rackham Graduate School, the School of Information and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program sponsored the program.

Presented through interviews and historical footage, the Spike Lee film “Four Little Girls” tells the story the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by members of the Ku Klux Klan, an incident that marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and the fight to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Long framed the bombing not only as an important moment in Black history, but for American history at large.

During the discussion, Long recounted his experiences with racial discrimination during the 1960s and described the hate that fueled the church bombing.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I could smell the gunpowder and I couldn’t believe that they blew up the church with people in it. People were helping others down the stairs, people were bleeding … it freaked me out.”

Long said the 16th Street Bombing and subsequent death of the four girls was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement, even attracting international attention — the people of Wales even fundraised and designed replacement stained glass window for the church.

“I think that was one of the main catalysts that moved this country forward in terms of civil rights,” Long said.

LSA freshman Lauren Thomas, who attended the event, said the film gave her perspective beyond her day-to-day life.

“It is very emotional,” she said. “It was good to take a minute outside of classes and remember that there are real things happening in the world or that have happened.”

Charles Senteio, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Information who helped organize the event, said a goal for screening the film was to connect current events related to race and discrimination with the past.

Noting that it’s often difficult to see ties to past injustices, Senteio said it’s important to revisit history as a method for preventing similar atrocities in the future.

“The conversations we’ve had around this event are to try to learn from what has taken place before and absorb some wisdom, inspiration, some humanity from a road we’ve already been down before,” he said.

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