Tuesday, March 08, 2011

You Did it to Me

A huge and iconic stained glass window hangs in a church in the US state of Alabama, paid for by the people of Wales, after the church was destroyed by bombers in 1963, killing four little girls.

In 1963, racist bombers blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The murder of children marked another low in the violent resistance to civil rights.

News of the bombing was broadcast worldwide. Welsh sculptor John Petts heard about it on the radio as he worked in his studio and wanted to do something to help. He contacted The Western Mail, 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's Tiger Bay to donate their pocket money.

Tens of thousands of people contributed to the fund. With the money that was raised, Petts was commissioned to create a new stained-glass window for the church. Grand in scale, it depicted the crucified Christ as a black man.

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 is a simple message: "Given by the people of Wales".

Read more today, and listen on Thursday 11.30am-12.00noon BBC RADIO 4.
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