The Wales Window of Alabama
4 Extra Debut. Gary Younge describes how the people of Wales helped to rebuild the Alabama church, where racist bombers killed four young girls in 1963.
This is the story of what links the people of Wales, with one of the worst atrocities of the American Civil Rights movement. In 1963, racist bombers, blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama, killing four girls in the blast. The murder of children marked another low in the violent resistance to civil rights.
News of the bombing was broadcast worldwide. The Welsh sculptor John Petts heard about it on the radio as he worked in his studio. He was so upset he wanted to do something to help. He contacted a local newspaper and a campaign was launched to raise money to help rebuild the devastated Church. No one was allowed to give more than half a crown - to ensure that no rich benefactor could take credit for the money raised. There were reports of children, black and white, queuing up in Cardiff to donate their pocket money.
Tens of thousands of people contributed to the fund. With the money that was raised, Petts was commissioned to make a new stained glass window for the Church. Grand in scale, it depicted a black man, arms out stretched, reminiscent of the crucifixion. Petts drew on his experiences as a medic in the second world war to create his image of the 'damaged male body'. He was also inspired by the Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa, which had happened only a few years before.
The window is now a focus of worship and has become one of the most famous pieces of art to come out of the darkness of the civil rights period. At its foot a simple message; 'Given by The People of Wales'.
This programme tells the story of 'The Welsh Window'
The presenter is Gary Younge and the producer is Nicola Swords.
The programme is produced in Manchester.