- Cullman, Alabama


September 26, 2013

Survivor of Sixteenth Street bombing is Common Read speaker

HANCEVILLE — Less than one month after the 50th anniversary of the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a woman who survived the attack that killed four young friends will visit the campus of Wallace State Community College. Carolyn Maull McKinstry will participate in the college’s fifth Common Read initiative during which her book “While the World Watched” will be read, discussed and incorporated into the curricula for some of the college classes.

McKinstry will make appearances on the campus on Oct. 9, 2013. She will speak at 9:30 a.m. at the Betty Leeth Haynes Theatre, and will be on hand later in the day to sign copies of her book at 11:30 a.m.

“While the World Watched” is described as a poignant and gripping eyewitness account of life in the Jim Crow South — from the bombings, riots, and assassinations to the historic marches and triumphs that characterized the Civil Rights movement. It provides insight into how the bombing continued to affect McKinstry’s for many years after.

McKinstry was in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church the day it was attacked. “I was inspired to remind the world of what happens when we teach hatred and to remind us that America has been as these crossroads many times before,” McKinstry writes on her website. “The book is an extension of and a tool for the ongoing ministry of reconciliation.”

Not only does the book detail her memories from that September day, it also provides accounts of her life growing up in Birmingham and the “lessons learned” from her experiences and involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. She attended meetings and rallies and Sixteenth Baptist Church and was among thousands of students hosed by firemen during the 1963 marches. She also survived a second bomb explosion that destroyed a large portion of her home in 1964.

McKinstry is currently an associate pastor at Trinity Baptist Church. “While the World Watched” was published in 2011 and has been featured on C-SPAN 2. She uses the book as a tool for her work in the Ministry of Reconciliation and Forgiveness.

For more information about Wallace State’s Common Read program, visit


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