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Four Little Girls: Denise McNair

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A young Lisa McNair, born one year after Denise. A young Lisa McNair, born one year after Denise.
A young Kimberly McNair, born 6 years after Denise was killed. A young Kimberly McNair, born 6 years after Denise was killed.
Denise McNair Denise McNair
Denise McNair with her Chatty Cathy doll Denise McNair with her Chatty Cathy doll
Denise McNair Denise McNair

Called a shameful act, a tragic day, an attack on a house of God - four little girls killed September 15th, 1963.

Primping for church in a women's bathroom were 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Morris Wesley and 11-year-old Denise McNair.

Denise's Mother, Maxine McNair said, "You just don't believe that anybody would be that mean and unkind."

In her 80's and in the early stages of Alzheimer's, Denise's mother still remembers that horrific day and later the funeral.

McNair said, "I was just kind of numb, disbelief, just felt like pinching myself, you're not here, you're not here, you're not here get up and go out the door and go home."

At the time, Denise was the McNair's only child. One year after Denise's death, Lisa was born and, later Kimberly.

Having never met their older sister, they learned at an early age what had happened to Denise.

Denise's sister, Lisa McNair said, "It's like the first memory I have that my sister was killed by white people that didn't like black people. It's like the first thing, you kind of carry that around forever, always wondering why."

Denise's Sister, Kimberly McNair said, "We would ask mom and dad, questions about her and what it, how was she, tell us a little bit about her, we might get one or two questions answered, a yes and a no, but anything beyond that, they just did not delve in."

But the family is delving in, talking about their heartbreak, not just to us but every year to high school students as they tour the Civil Rights Corridor on a program called "Sojourn to the Past."

Students visit historic sites in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and more including 16th Street Baptist Church. Here they view Spike Lee's documentary, "4 little girls", many in tears after, and get to ask questions, get words of wisdom from Maxine McNair…

Maxine speaking to students, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you..."

…even hug her. The family believes it's important to share their story, their history.

Lisa McNair said, "Just like the American Revolution, just like the Civil War was, it's our American history as well and it should be taught, it should be taught more often, taught broadly and people should learn it, know it just like they know other parts of our history."

And as for healing for this family, 50 years later???

Maxine McNair said, "Somewhat, but we still think about, and we still talk about it. My husband and I do talk about it, occasionally, and we think about it, at least I do and wish that she were here."

Not only Denise, but Addie, Carole and Cynthia, young lives cut short... leaving a lasting legacy in the Civil Rights Movement.

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