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On 15 September 1963, extremist group the Ku Klux Klan planted a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four black girls attending Sunday school.

This act of terrorism touched the hearts of the people of Wales, particularly artist John Petts in his home at Llansteffan. He offered his services to design and create a new stained glass window for the church, and together with the Western Mail launched a campaign to raise funds for the appeal. The campaign grew as money poured in,, and the Western Mail published images of Welsh people from all races queuing to personally donate what they could.

Petts visited the church and worked on the design for over a year. His window studies and final designs depict a black Christ with arms outstretched, and were considered controversial at the time. These designs are held at The National Library of Wales.

In 1965, the window was installed and dedicated ‘Given by the people of Wales’. Today, the window is known as the ‘Wales Window’ and is an iconic symbol of the American Civil Rights Movement.

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Questions to discuss

  • What happened at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963?
  • What was John Petts' response to the event?
  • What was the campaign launched by the Western Mail?
  • What is the most important message to take away from this story?
  • How does art connect people?


  • Discuss what happened in Birmingham, Alabama
  • Research the response in Wales to the event in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • Research the Civil Rights Movement in the USA.
  • Analyse the different symbols in John Petts' work.
  • Create a stained glass window design for the church in Alabama.

Learning experiences

(derived from the statements of what matters)

Expressive Arts
  • Convey ideas
  • Representing personal, social and cultural identities
  • Understanding context in creative works
  • Exploring purpose and meaning
  • Human impact on the world
  • Understand ideas and perspectives
  • Social and cultural importance
  • Identity
Languages, Literacy and Communication
  • Listening with empathy and respect
  • Understanding perspectives

Case study

The Communities of Wales project has supported Cathays High School to learn more about their cynefin and the diverse communities of Cardiff. The Library worked with UNIFY, artists who have created many famous murals in Cardiff, to deliver 6 workshops with Year 7 learners in art lessons. The learners co-designed a mural that celebrates the community's diversity and demonstrates how art can connect people. The mural design is inspired by John Petts' 'The Wales Window'.

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Further reading

Dictionary of Welsh Biography - PETTS, RONALD JOHN (1914 - 1991), artist

Wales Window for Alabama - Observations on Religion in Birmingham, Alabama, by Samford University Religious Studies Students

American civil rights: the Welsh connection -