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Osseo Area Schools scholars learn about 1963 Birmingham church bombing from sister of a victim

Osseo Area Schools scholars learn about 1963 Birmingham church bombing from sister of a victim

Lisa McNair, the younger sister of Denise McNair, who was one of the four little girls killed during the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, came to share her story with students from Osseo Area Schools on Feb. 28. 

McNair recently published a book “Dear Denise: Letters to the Sister I Never Knew,” and she shared her perspective on racial hate and segregation in the south during her childhood years, and how the bombing impacted her even though she wasn’t born until one year after it killed her sister. 

McNair explained how it took over 35 years for the bombers to all be brought to justice, but through it all, her parents chose not to be angry or hateful despite their deep despair over the loss of what was then their only child. 

“They chose not to do that; they chose to love everybody,” she said. 

In fact, McNair’s father, Chris, went on to become the state of Alabama’s first Black state legislator from Jefferson County. He wanted to honor Denise by being a public servant and showing that a Black person could do an excellent job serving as a public official.

The book talks about McNair’s family and her experiences going to a mostly white private school growing up, and it seeks to inform others about the tragedy. McNair said she hopes the book will encourage readers to love others and to live by the golden rule. Her speech acted as a culminating event on the last day of Black History Month, where scholars from all seven of the district’s middle and senior high schools’ Real Talk groups were invited to attend. Real Talk groups allow students to talk with one another and get support about discrimination or racial problems they have faced. 

“As young people you might think ‘well, I can’t do anything,’ but you can do things,” McNair told the students. “You can do a lot, and you don’t realize the power you have. You just have to know that you have that power and put it into action.”