ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Fifty years ago this Sunday, four African-American girls died when the Ku Klux Klan bombed a church in Alabama.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The explosion at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church was a seminal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. It horrified the nation and helped spur passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
SIEGEL: Today, the girls received one of the nation's highest civilian awards, the Congressional Gold Medal. House Speaker John Boehner led the ceremony.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: Birmingham had to go through hell but found its way back and pushed itself forward and pushed the whole country forward as well.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Don't let your burdens get you down...
CORNISH: The four girls were Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, all 14 years old, and Denise McNair, who was 11.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) I know you could not do... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.