‘The 5th Little Girl’: Book on Church Bombing Survivor Done

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Church bombing survivor Sarah Collins Rudolph speaks to Alabama’s parole board in opposition of an early release for convicted bomber Thomas Blanton Jr. on Aug. 3, 2016. Rudolph, who was badly injured in the bombing and whose sister Addie Mae Collins was killed, recently wrote a book about her experience. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

By Shauna Stuart
The Associated Press/AL.com undefined

For more than a decade, Sarah Collins Rudolph, one of the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, has traveled the country telling her story. Now, her full story will come out in a forthcoming book, published by Africa World Press and The Red Sea Press.

“The 5th Little Girl: Soul Survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing (The Sarah Collins Rudolph Story)” is now complete and available for purchase. Written by Wright State University political science professor Tracy D. Snipe after hours of conversation with Rudolph, the book is a chronicle of her life growing up in civil rights era Birmingham. The biography is also a deep dive into Rudolph’s relationship with her family and the aftermath of the bombing, according to a description from Africa World Press:

“In this intimate first-hand account, Sarah imparts her views on topics such as the 50th year commemoration, restitution, and racial terrorism. This story also delves into the bond between Sarah and her mother, Mrs. Alice Collins. In the backdrop of a national reckoning and global protests, underscored by the deadly violence at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, SC, and tragedies in Charlottesville, VA, and Pittsburgh, PA, Sarah’s unflinching testimony about the ’63 Birmingham church bombing is illuminating.”

Rudolph was 12 years old when dynamite planted by the Ku Klux Klan inside of the 16th Street Baptist Church exploded on Sept. 15, 1963. The blast blew glass and shrapnel at her face, leaving her blind in one eye, and killed her sister Addie Mae Collins and their friends Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Denise McNair.

Collins Rudolph had glass fragments in her chest, left eye and abdomen for decades after the explosion.

In June, Thomas E. Blanton, the last surviving Ku Klux Klan member convicted in the 1963 bombing, died in prison. Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry both were arrested in 2000 on murder charges, nearly four decades after the deadly Birmingham bombing.

In July, lawyers representing Rudolph wrote a letter to Gov. Kay Ivey asking for an official apology from the state and possibly compensation. Two months later, Gov. Ivey issued an apology to Rudolph for the state’s role in fomenting the 1963 attack.

“If feels good that her story is coming out because it’s long overdue. But you cannot rush the process,” Collins Rudolph’s husband George Rudolph told AL.com in a brief phone interview. “I’m thankful that it will finally happen. Because this is the true story.”

The forthcoming book will include details that Sarah Collins Rudolph has never shared publicly. While the 70 year-old Birmingham native isn’t giving any further insight those details just yet, she told AL.com that she is glad a years-long process has finally come to fruition.

“I’m very excited about it because we have waited so long. It came out on my birthday and it makes me so happy.”