John Coltrane, with McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison, performing “Alabama,” on Jazz Casual (National Educational Television; December 7, 1963). The track is found on the 1964 album, Live at Birdland.
This is a response in music to the four girls killed (murdered) at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday, September 15, 1963. The four girls are Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Cynthia Wesley (age 14), Carole Robertson (age 14) and Carol Denise McNair (age 11); 14 others are injured, including Sarah Collins, the 12-year-old sister of Addie Mae Collins, who loses an eye in the bomb blast.
A few days later, on September 18, 1963, Martin Luther, Jr. delivers an eulogy, a response in words to acts of hate and injustice. Words that rise to the occasion. Words that desire to console and give courage to the hearts of all men and women, regardless of the color of their skin. Such words, which likely inspire Coltrane’s soulful music above, are also well worth listening to today. One should never tire of correcting injustice, of working for justice, of turning evil into good.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s Eulogy for the Young Victims, September 18, 1963. Dr King begins as follows: “This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God.”