Originally named the First Colored Baptist Church, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was founded in 1873. The first church building was at the intersection of 12th Street North and 4th Avenue. The congregation moved to its current location in 1880.
This is the second building at this location. The City of Birmingham condemned the first building, so the church leaders turned to Alabama’s only Black architect, Wallace Rayfield, to design the current building. T.C. Windham, a Black contractor from Birmingham, managed the church’s building. The church was completed in 1911 with Romanesque and Byzantine elements.
Based on its location in Birmingham, the church became a centerpiece of the Civil Rights Movement. The church hosted lecturers and became a gathering place for meetings and rallies. Unfortunately, the church became a target of white supremacists on Sunday, September 15, 1963, when a bomb went off at 10:22 AM. The bomb killed 4 girls and injured more than 20 others. Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair lost their lives that day. It took years to bring the perpetrators to justice. Three out of the four were convicted.