OAKLAND — She was a college student beginning a year of study in France when she heard about the latest horror in her Alabama hometown: four African-American girls killed in a church bombing, two of them known to her as family friends.
Years before she became an international symbol of a turbulent American era, Angela Yvonne Davis was a homesick 19-year-old searching for a French phone booth. She wanted to check on her parents back in Birmingham.
“As horrendous as it was to imagine that bombing, I really wish I had been able to be there,” Davis said this week. “Whenever you lose someone, you want your friends and family around.”
Just 18 days after the euphoric March on Washington dared Americans to imagine an end to racism, Ku Klux Klan members on Sept. 15, 1963, planted dynamite under the steps of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, a gathering spot for young activists fighting the city’s deeply entrenched racial segregation.