By Leslye Joy Allen Historian, Educator, Theatre and Jazz Advocate & Consultant, Ph.D. Candidate
Copyright © 2013 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.
This blog is short and bittersweet. It is the evening of Saturday, September 14, 2013, as I write this. It is the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four little girls. If they had lived, all of them would be over the age of sixty right now.
I learned today that the ex-husband of an old friend is a member of the Wesley family, the same family that Cynthia D. Morris bka Cynthia D. Wesley lived with. My friend informed me that Mrs. Gertrude Turner Wesley suffered a nervous breakdown after “Cynthia Diane Morris bka Cynthia Diane Wesley” was killed in this explosion. It seems that both her biological family and her host (or adoptive) family loved this little girl. Her host or adoptive family did not have any biological children, which is why she appeared as the “only daughter” of the Wesleys in so many news reports in 1963. Yet, Fate Morris, the brother of “Cynthia Diane Morris aka Cynthia Wesley” remembers his sister and is a man that needs some answers and some acknowledgement.
With her Death Records amended by the state of Alabama in 2002 which legally changed her name back to her original birth name of “Cynthia Diane Morris,” it must be acknowledged that this problem with her death and who or what she should be called has highlighted an important and beautiful legacy among us Black folks: We Black folks have always had a tradition of taking in children if they needed to go to another school or if their parents were struggling financially or if they just simply needed a home.
Yet, in many instances—particularly before the late 20th century—we never signed any legal agreements or signed any adoption or guardian papers, we just opened our homes and our hearts. With that said, it does not matter so much that Cynthia is/was claimed, legally or otherwise, by the now-deceased Wesleys; after all, they loved her. Yet, what Fate Morris, who remembers his sister’s visits on weekends, needs most of all is to hear someone say that she was “Cynthia Diane Morris,” his sister. What he and indeed, Birmingham, Alabama desperately needs is all of the truth and some real closure.
On the evening of September 12, 2013, I cried when I listened to Fate Morris describe that day when his sister was killed. He was eleven years old. I wept again today when I learned that Mrs. Wesley suffered a nervous breakdown after young Cynthia’s death. Right now, I weep for them all. To be continued…: “Related Material – a BlogTalk Radio Interview and an important new CNN article 9-14-2013”
Leslye Joy Allen is also a perpetual and proud supporter of the good work of Clean Green Nation. Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!
I hear you. Today, I will incorporate this new information as a part of a my presentation at Holman United Methodist Church’s Hope Cafe Annual Fundraiser which raises funds for family and organizers dealing with and assisting with HIV/AIDS. This is the church where Rev James Lawson who taught Dr.King served for many years before retiring.. I will talk about pivotal moments of 63 via call and response songs along a reading from James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and close with Nikki Giovanni’s Making James Baldwin. And the journey continues. And so it is.Ashe.
Thanks Charles. I think all involved are hurting and possibly being exploited (along with the memory of the girls themselves.) That is a subject for another later day. I also think I was genuinely on to something when I spoke about those class divisions that have hampered us–It has. Thanks anyway for your comments. Be in touch soon. Joy
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