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Washington • House and Senate leaders are formally awarding Congress' highest civilian honor to four girls killed in an Alabama church bombing nearly 50 years ago.
The Congressional Gold Medal is being awarded Tuesday to 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, and 11-year-old Denise McNair. The ceremony comes five days before the 50th anniversary of their deaths inside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.
The girls were killed in the explosion of a bomb planted outside the church by white supremacists. The attack shocked the nation and helped spur passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Past recipients of the medal include Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King.