The photo was taken in July 1965 in Greensboro, Alabama. Five months after Malcolm X’s assassination. Four months after Bloody Sunday on that bridge in Selma. My mother, second-born of four girls, was a few months away from turning thirteen, the age Denise McNair, youngest of the four little girls, would have been. Searched for in rubble and broken stained glass. Her father glimpsed the dusty patent-leather shoe poking from under the white sheet and knew it was Denise’s. My mother’s Tennessee borders Denise’s Alabama, where in 1963 white supremacists planted fifteen sticks of dynamite under the back stairwell of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, and where, hours after the ghastly explosion, thirteen-year-old Virgil Ware was shot while riding on the handlebars of his brother’s bike. Alabama, where, on the same day five children had already been murdered — Denise McNair and Addie Mae Collins and Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley and Virgil Ware — a sixth, Johnny Robinson, sixteen, was shot in the back by a police officer. What is it about a traffic stop and a city block and a sidewalk and a country road and a Bible study and a choir room and a vestibule and a playground and a living room and a bedroom and a bed and a driveway and a highway and a stairwell and a gas station and a suburb and a driver’s seat and a parking lot and a balcony and the door to one’s own home. It’s raining. It’s raining in Greensboro, Alabama. Almost forty years later Agha Shahid Ali will write: “After we died — That was it! — God left us in the dark. / And as we forgot the dark, we forgot even the rain.” Even the rain . . . even the rain, the poet will repeat. The young woman in the photo, the girl, has taken the shoes off her feet. She pinches the tops of them together and advances toward the camera. In May 1965, a few months before this photograph was taken, the white photographer moved with his wife and daughter from Pennsylvania to Alabama to work for The Southern Courier. The photograph won’t run in the newspaper. The negative will be archived under the title “Young woman standing in the rain during a civil rights demonstration in Greensboro, Alabama.” According to the article alongside which this photograph will not appear, a policeman wearing a gas mask and a blue uniform set off a tear-gas canister ten feet from the protesters that day. This policeman, wearing a gas mask and a blue uniform, first gave the young demonstrators a three-minute warning. The demonstrators prayed. Before the three minutes were up, gas erupted into the air. The wind shifted, blowing the noxious smoke toward the police officers. The children and young people retreated inside the doors of Saint Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church. White men hurled gas grenades into the building. Two days before the demonstration, two more churches had been burned. The children and young people had gathered to protest the burnings. Now, inside the beleaguered church, they had decided on a strategy. They chose to return outside, to hold their ground. Rain begins to fall. In the downpour a girl, scarcely a teenager, takes the shoes off her feet. She is about the age Denise McNair and Addie Mae Collins and Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley and Virgil Ware and Johnny Robinson will always be. She is eleven or fourteen or thirteen or sixteen. This girl probably remembers when, two years ago, she heard about the four little girls. She probably remembers a photograph of Sarah Collins, the fifth girl, who was lying in a hospital bed, skin burned, eyes covered with white patches of cotton and gauze. Today the young people wanted to march to the Hale County Courthouse to protest the church burnings. The police erected a barricade. The Klan was rumored to be waiting. The girl ran into Saint Matthew with the others. Rain began to fall. She left the church and walked outside into the rain. Now, as the photographer prepares to click the shutter, she pinches the tops of her shoes together and advances toward the camera. In the background, a brick wall. Her mouth is open as the rain falls. Singing and shouting and praying. She wants freedom. She shall not be moved.