Statue by John H. Waddell
“That Which Might Have Been, Birmingham 1963”
From a world torn asunder by artificial and meaningless barriers, where differences create misunderstanding and fear, we look to a future of harmony and peace, where differences, not quicken interest, reveal beauty, and create a desire to understand. To the achievement of such a world, we dedicate this art, keeping in memory the lives of those innocents memorialized therein.
The total group stands as a prayer of atonement and symbolizes the unfulfilled maturity of four black girls killed in the church bombing in Birmingham, Sept 15, 1963. But it does not represent them. The total group implies nobility, perseverance, and hope. Each figure has a meaning that relates to the health of the world. The total sculpture allows the onlooker to become a part of the mystery, the pain, and the healing. The negative space in the center of the four figures implies the vase of a vortex reaching heavenward and suggests the need and desire for supernatural aid. On the raised hand of the figure facing northward is written the word “prayer,” the overtone of the total group is earnest hope for understanding among humankind.
The Artistic Interpretation of Each Figure
Eastward Facing Figure:
The mystery of genetic potential
This, the most maternal of the group, implies the maturity of fulfilled womanhood and motherhood. The upraised swaddling cloth bears the imprint, which symbolizes the progeny that will never be born.
The ability to consider and evaluate
This figure is in the act of turning – turning away or towards. In essence, this figure expresses the dilemma of the black today, still hoping for acceptance; but ready to turn away in desperation.
The Westward-Facing figure:
The ability to reconsider and change
This figure is in placid contemplation of death and acceptance of all that is and will come. Acceptance is symbolized by the shell-like quality of the gesture of the figure.
The power of hope and prayer
This figure is the most youthful and reflects hope and optimism in the face of adversity.
Standing in the Courtyard of the Museum are (L. to R.) Calvin C. Goode, Eugene Grisby, Thomasena Grisby, and Princess Crump.