Valerie Williams

Four Little Girls Honored for Their “Lasting Contribution to the Civil Rights Movement” Which Led to Permanent Change in America

Alabama School of Fine Arts student commissioned by Wells Fargo to create art piece in remembrance of the Civil Rights Movement

BIRMINGHAM, Sept. 11, 2013 – Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair – four young girls whose horrible deaths changed the world – were the center of attention at the kickoff of a special week in Birmingham to celebrate a landmark anniversary of the Civil Rights movement.

In remembrance of the girls’ ultimate sacrifice, Wells Fargo commissioned a painting as part of its support of Birmingham’s 50 Years Forward, a celebration honoring the history of Civil Rights.  Willie Williams, 17, a student at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, was chosen to create an artistic depiction of the four little girls and capture the significance of their moment in history.

A moving video documenting the creation of the painting was shown during the unveiling ceremony on Monday. In the video, Williams reflects on the four little girls and how their sacrifice led to the freedom he enjoys today, “I understand that those freedoms that I have now didn’t come free. So I have to look back and say, if I don’t reach my potential, then, why did they die?”  He referred to the painting as a glorious recognition of the girls as opposed to a haunting newspaper article reporting their deaths. His effort is a welcomed opportunity to make a statement as a young African American artist. The video can be found on Wells Fargo’s You Tube channel.

After the unveiling, the painting was presented to Mayor William A. Bell for permanent display in City Hall. Wells Fargo leaders also presented the Alabama School of Fine Arts with a check for $2,500.

“We are so honored to help kick off this week of commemoration,” said Wells Fargo Mid-South Region President Leigh Collier.  “This was a monumental period in 1963 and it’s important to reflect on the past as we move forward.  Willie’s painting will be instrumental in helping all of us remember that pivotal point in history.”

“They lost their lives far too early, but these four little girls made a lasting contribution to the Civil Rights movement,” said Congressman Spencer Bachus who, along with Congresswoman Terri Sewell, was instrumental in securing the legislation honoring the girls with the Congressional Medal, signed by President Obama in May.

Congressman Bachus, Mayor William Bell and Dr. Lawrence J. Pijeaux, Jr., President and CEO of Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, were among the speakers at a commemorative breakfast at BCRI, attended by nearly 100 guests.  Harold and Vivian McNair, family of Denise McNair, were honored at the event, which started a week of activities sponsored by Birmingham’s 50 Years Forward celebration.

In a recent Wells Fargo Blog post (blogs.wellsfargo.com), Richard Busby, a senior community development officer for Wells Fargo in Birmingham, Ala., writes about the personal impact of this event.

The commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emancipation Proclamation are among several milestones recognized by Wells Fargo as defining moments in history.  Recently, the company joined its national partners to acknowledge the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. Wells Fargo launched a yearlong celebration featuring The Kinsey Collection – a traveling exhibit featuring art and artifacts chronicling African America history from the 1600s to today. Visit wellsfargo.com/kinseycollection to learn more.

Editor’s Note: Photos Captioned for Editorial Use

Pictured from L to R during Wells Fargo’s unveiling of the Four Little Girls painting are Mayor William Bell, Willie Williams, Harold McNair, Vivian McNair (the aunt and uncle of Denise McNair, one of the Four Young Girls), Congressman Spencer Bachus and Wells Fargo President Leigh Collier

Photo courtesy of Stacy Jones Photography ©

Photo courtesy of Stacy Jones Photography ©Alabama School of Fine Arts student artist, Willie Williams, stands proudly next to the painting he created in honor of the Four Little Girls during the unveiling of the painting at the 50 Years Forward Celebration

Photo courtesy of Stacy Jones Photography ©

Darius Hill, Alabama School of Fine Arts teacher; Leigh Collier, Wells Fargo Region President; Dr. Michael Meeks, Executive Director of the Alabama School of Fine Arts; and Willie Williams, student artist, during the check presentation at the unveiling of the Four Young Girls painting

Photo courtesy of Stacy Jones Photography ©

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a nationwide, diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.4 trillion in assets. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 9,000 stores, 12,000 ATMs, and the Internet (wellsfargo.com), and has offices in more than 35 countries to support the bank’s customers who conduct business in the global economy. With more than 270,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States.  Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 25 on Fortune’s 2013 rankings of America’s largest corporations. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy all our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially.  In 2012, the Company invested $315.8 million in grants to 19,500 nonprofits, and team members contributed more than 1.5 million volunteer hours around the country. For more information, please visit: www.wellsfargo.com/about/csr.  Wells Fargo perspectives are also available at blog.wellsfargo.com.