DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — A recent federal report outlining the rising threat of violent white supremacists has prompted the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum to refresh its exhibit of "The Fight for Civil Rights in the South."
The Museum is featuring the deadly bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
The KKK planted sticks of dynamite outside the basement and they exploded at 10:22 Sunday morning, September 15, 1963.
Dale Long, who was 11 years old at the time, was in the church with his nine year old brother Kenneth. "I was in the basement of the church. I noticed that some were bleeding, many were crying. So many people, and it dawned on me, once I smelled the pungent odor of gun powder, I realized the church had been bombed with people inside."
The blast killed four young girls: 11 year old Denise McNair, 14 year old Addie Mae Collins, 14 year old Carole Robertson, and 14 year old Cynthia Wesley.
Long said, "I was three rooms down from where the young ladies were."
All were his friends, lost too soon. "I stood there and watched the pallbearers bring three coffins out of that church and load them into the hearse," Long said.
On display are McNair's coat, purse, and shoes, along with a cement brick fragment from the church.
Long said, "It's emotional for me because it's a day, September 15th is one that I'll never forget."
He shared his story with the Museum's President and CEO, Mary Pat Higgins who gave him a tour of the exhibit.
Higgins said, "To hear he was in that church, worshipping his God on the day that a bomb was planted, with the intent on murdering people, it's really chilling."
Both Long and Higgins said the exhibit is even more important after a recent Department of Homeland Security report that found white supremacists pose the most persistent and lethal threat to the country.
Higgins said, "I hope that our visitors will be chilled by this too, and that they need to be a part of the solution to fight discrimination still in our country."
Long said, "I've seen the ultimate in what race relations does and what discrimination and segregation and hatred does. And certainly, I wouldn't want anybody to have to relieve that era."
The bombing ultimately led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Long credits Dr. Martin Luther King, who he had seen for the first time in person after he eulogized three of his friends.
He said the exhibit here is a good way to inspire visitors to stand up for what's right. "We need to start with a place like this, with a space like this and educate ourselves and then go out and do things for the community."
The exhibit at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum runs until May 31.
On April 4, Long will speak about his experiences during a virtual presentation by the Museum that you can sign up to attend.
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