From her office in Birmingham, Al., DeJuana Thompson sees a daily reminder of terror. Her window overlooks the 16th Street Baptist Church, where a bomb in 1963 killed four young Black girls. The FBI is investigating last week’s bomb threats against at least 17 historically Black colleges and universities. Thompson said the threats underscore the need to teach new generations the history of violence targeting people of color so the lessons of the past can be applied to the present, the Associated Press reports. The FBI said the hate crimes probe involves more than 20 field offices and “is of the highest priority.” Investigators have identified at least five “persons of interest,” a law enforcement official said.
Though no devices were found at schools threatened last week, “people of color don’t have that privilege to think it’s not real,” said Lance Wheeler of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. The bomb threats against Black institutions are deeply rooted in U.S. history. In Alabama, people used to call Birmingham “Bombingham” because of how many bombs and bomb threats occurred, Thompson said. “How we responded then is how we are responding now,” Thompson said. “We will not stand for these hate crimes, we will not stand for this intimidation, we shall not be moved.” Universities in Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, and other states targeted last week have resumed operations since the lockdowns. Many still worry about future threats and efforts to prosecute those responsible.