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Phylicia Rashad Directs Reading for Play of 1963 Alabama Church Bombing

( [email protected] ) Sep 16, 2013 03:49 PM EDT
Phylicia Rashad, who played matriarch Clair Huxtable in "The Bill Cosby Show," directed on Sunday a reading at a play that marked the 50th anniversary of the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four girls and injured dozen others.
Tony Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad directed a reading of 'Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963' on Sunday.

Phylicia Rashad, who played matriarch Clair Huxtable in "The Bill Cosby Show," directed on Sunday a reading at a play that marked the 50th anniversary of the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four girls and injured dozen others.

"Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963" replays at the Kennedy Center the violent attack of white supremacists against the African-American communities during the height of the United States civil rights movement.

Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14, Addie Mae Collins, 14, and Cynthia Dianne Wesley, 14, were killed on Sept. 19, 1963 when a bomb was thrown into the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. The girls were killed in the explosion, which was the turning point that led to the passage of landmark civil rights legislation.

Rashad, who is recognized in Broadway's "A Raisin in the Sun," said she wanted the reading to emphasize the "sanctity of joy, human existence and value of all life." 

Meanwhile, hundreds of black and white held hands during the service that day at the 16th Street Baptist Church, where the Rev. Arthur Price taught the same Sunday school lesson that members of 16th Street Baptist Church heard the morning of the bombing - "A Love That Forgives," according to the Associated Press.

"God spared me to live and tell just what happened on that day," said Bombing survivor Sarah Collins Rudolph, who lost her right eye and sister Addie Mae Collins in the blast and later testified against the Ku Klux Klan Klansmen convicted years later in the bombing.  

Congregation members and visitors sang the old hymn "Love Lifted Me" and joined hands in prayer.