BIRMINGHAM — U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) used the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on Friday to accuse her political opponents of attempting to "whitewash" history and ban books.

The 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church occurred after four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members planted 19 sticks of dynamite under the steps of the church. The explosion killed four black girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair, all under the age of 15. It also injured several others.

The bombing received national attention and amplified the push for civil rights legislation on the federal level. Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy later that year, President B. Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

Viewers filled the church on Friday morning and participated in a service before Jackson's speech. Those who did not make it inside the church gathered outside at Kelly Ingram Park across the street where the service was being projected. 

Several Birmingham-area Democrats, including Sewell, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook), welcomed Jackson to the 16th Street Baptist Church.

All three spoke of the bombing as a motivation for the civil rights movement, in which Birmingham played a significant role. They also insisted that threats to racial equality are still looming, if not becoming more serious.

"Today, we witness attempts to whitewash our history, ban our stories from history books and roll back our progress," Sewell claimed. "We understand that progress is elusive, and we have to fight to hold onto it."

Sewell's comments follow Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) decision earlier this year to reject an African American Studies AP Course, citing concerns about the curriculum's ideological bias. 

Proponents of DeSantis' move argued the course was rooted in Critical Race Theory (CRT), which has been criticized for its embrace of relativism and accused of attributing all unequal outcomes between racial groups to "institutional racism" and unfairly labeling any criticism of the theory as racist. 

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