On Sept. 15, 1963, four young girls were killed by a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

Three days later, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a eulogy for the girls, at a funeral service for Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair. A separate service was held for the fourth victim, Carole Robertson. In his eulogy, King stressed that though the girls were martyred, they did not die in vain. He called upon their friends and families, as well as the community at large, to cast bitterness from their hearts and turn away from the desire for vengeance.

At this time of great hate, it is good to pray this prayer and remember its context. We can choose hate, but we can also choose hope. We can choose revenge, but more often than not, we cannot satiate our hunger for justice with revenge. We can only hope.

We can only hold on.

Eulogy for the Martyred Children
Martin Luther King Jr. 1963

Now I say to you in conclusion,
life is hard,
at times as hard as crucible steel.
It has its bleak and difficult moments.
Like the ever-flowing waters of the river,
life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood.
Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons,
life has the soothing warmth of its summers
and the piercing chill of its winters.
But if one will hold on,
he will discover that God walks with him,
and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair
to the buoyancy of hope
and transform dark and desolate valleys
into sunlit paths of inner peace.

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