Fred Shuttlesworth

Fred Shuttlesworth

Fred Lee Robinson was born in Mont Meigs, Alabama, on 18th March, 1922. His mother, Alberta Robinson, later married William Shuttlesworth, a farmer. He worked as a labourer and a truck driver before graduating from Selma University (1951) and Alabama State College (1952). In 1953 Shuttlesworth became pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church.

In May 1956 Shuttlesworth established the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). In December, 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation in Montgomery was illegal. Immediately, Shuttlesworth announced that the ACMHR would test segregation laws in Birmingham.

On Christmas Day, 1956, 16 sticks of dynamite exploded under his bedroom window. As his biographer, pointed out: "The following year, he and his wife tried to register their child at a white Birmingham high school. White thugs beat him with a knuckleduster, whips and chains."

In 1957 Shuttlesworth joined Martin Luther King, Ralph David Abernathy and Bayard Rustin to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the main objective of the SCLC was to coordinate and assist local organizations working for the full equality of African Americans. The new organization was committed to using nonviolence in the struggle for civil rights, and SCLC adopted the motto: "Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed."

Shuttlesworth's civil rights activities made him a target of white racists and on the evening of 25th December, 1956, Shuttlesworth survived a bomb blast that destroyed his house. The following year a white mob beat Shuttlesworth with whips and chains during an attempt to integrate an all-white public school. During this period Martin Luther King described Shuttlesworth as "the most courageous civil rights fighter in the South".

Godfrey Hodgson has pointed out: "Shuttlesworth always acknowledged King's leadership, and marched and went to jail with him. But when King came to Shuttlesworth's home town for a historic trial of strength with segregation, he did not like being taken for granted. At the climax of the crisis, when pictures of black demonstrators being attacked by police dogs and water cannon were going around the world, King began talks with a group of Jewish businessmen about desegregating their department stores. Shuttlesworth was not told about the talks, and he was not pleased."

In 1960 Shuttlesworth participated in the sit-in protests against segregated lunch counters and in 1961 helped Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) organize its Freedom Rides. When the riders were beaten up in Anniston, Shuttlesworth organised a convoy of 15 cars to rescue them. Later, when the riders were surrounded by a mob of about 1,000 armed white people, Shuttlesworth escorted civil rights leader, James Farmer, to his church. Farmer later recalled: "He was either insane or the most courageous man I have ever met. Shuttlesworth just walked through them, as cool as a cucumber. I think they were intimidated by his boldness."

Shuttlesworth also led the mass demonstrations against segregation in Birmingham and this resulted in him being hospitalized in May, 1963, after being slammed against a wall by water from fire hoses. A few days later it was announced: "1. Within 3 days after close of demonstrations, fitting rooms will be desegregated. 2. Within 30 days after the city government is established by court order, signs on wash rooms, rest rooms and drinking fountains will be removed. 3. Within 60 days after the city government is established by court order, a program of lunchroom counter desegregation will be commenced. 4. When the city government is established by court order, a program of upgrading Negro employment will be continued and there will be meetings with responsible local leadership to consider further steps."

In 1966 Shuttlesworth became pastor of the Greater New Light Baptist Church. He has also served as director of the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation, an organization which helps low-income families to buy their own homes, that he established in 1988. It has been claimed that the foundation assisted 460 low-income families to obtain houses. A biography by Andrew M. Manis, A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, was published in 1999.

In 2004 Shuttlesworth became the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, but resigned claiming that "deceit, mistrust and a lack of spiritual discipline and truth have eaten at the core of this once-hallowed organisation". He preached his last sermon in 2006, after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. In 2008 the Birmingham airport was renamed Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

Fred Shuttlesworth died on 5th October 2011.

As free and independent citizens of the United States of America, we express publicly our determination to press forward persistently for freedom and democracy, and the removal from our society of any forms of second-class citizenship. We Negroes shall never become enemies of the white people. But America was born in the struggle for Freedom from Tyranny and Oppression. We shall never bomb any homes or lynch any persons; but we must, because of history and the future, march to complete freedom with unbowed heads, praying hearts, and an unyielding determination.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: 1) collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive; 2) negotiation; 3) self-purification; and 4) direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham.

Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of the country. Its unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts is a notorious reality. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any city in this nation. These are the hard, brutal, and unbelievable facts. On the basis of these conditions Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers But the political leaders consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

In May 1956 Alabama politicians "stood on the beach of history and tried to hold back the tide." They outlawed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in a desperate attempt to halt the movement for Negro equality. But their action had precisely the opposite effect. For almost immediately the Negroes of Birmingham came together to form a movement which during the last ten years has transformed life in Birmingham - which has shaken America.

"They could outlaw an organization, but they couldn't outlaw the movement of a people determined to be free," said the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, president of the new group. And at a mass meeting called by a committee of Negro ministers, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) was born. Many Negroes in "the Johannesburg of North America" were afraid to join. But many others echoed the sentiments of Mrs. Rosa Walker, one of the first members: "I was frightened, but I figured we needed help to get us more jobs and better education. And we had the man here to help us."

But Christmas night, the night before the protest, the home of Rev. Shuttlesworth was bombed. The bed in which he was sleeping was directly over the spot where the bomb went off. The bed was blown to bits, but he escaped unhurt. Members of the ACMHR say he was saved to lead the movement.

Shuttlesworth took a neighbor who was hurt in the explosion to the hospital. Then he took a bus home - and he rode in front. The bombing strengthened the determination of his followers in the same way.

"On the 25th day of December, that's when they blew up Rev. Shuttlesworth's house," says Mrs. Walker. "And when I went to the meeting the next morning Rev. Shuttlesworth was the first thing I saw. And I knowed as how their house was blowed up, and I couldn't figure out how he was there. And I said then, that I'm going into it. And I went into it on that day."

More than 250 others "went into it" with Mrs. Twenty-one of them were arrested that day, one the following day. They were convicted and fined, and they then filed suit in federal court, in January, 1957.

The question of desegregating the buses wasn't over until late 1959. At that time, federal court rulings held the police were wrong in arresting Negroes who rode the buses integrated in 1958 and the Milwaukee couple who sat in the railroad station in 1959. But the segregation signs were still up, and by now ACMHR people knew that court rulings only come to life when people put their bodies on the line in a challenge to the old ways.

1. Within 3 days after close of demonstrations, fitting rooms will be desegregated.

2. Within 30 days after the city government is established by court order, signs on wash rooms, rest rooms and drinking fountains will be removed.

3. Within 60 days after the city government is established by court order, a program of lunchroom counter desegregation will be commenced.

4. When the city government is established by court order, a program of upgrading Negro employment will be continued and there will be meetings with responsible local leadership to consider further steps.

Shuttlesworth, who has died aged 89, was one of the founders – along with the Rev Ralph Abernathy and King – of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the vehicle for King's campaigns across the south. He and King could hardly have been more different. King was the son of a wealthy and influential preacher in Atlanta, Georgia, highly educated and the greatest orator of his generation. Shuttlesworth, who had grown up poor in rural Alabama, worked as a labourer and a truck driver before graduating from a black college in Selma and becoming a preacher. At one point, a friendly college professor gave him a cow. Once he had given some milk to the college, the balance went to feed Shuttlesworth's family.

Shuttlesworth always acknowledged King's leadership, and marched and went to jail with him. Shuttlesworth was not told about the talks, and he was not pleased.

He threatened to go home with his movement, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. "You're Mister Big," he bellowed at King, "but you're going to be Mister S-H-I-T!" He frequently attacked King for making "flowery speeches" instead of taking action.


FROM BOYZ 2 MEN, INC.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Birmingham, Alabama was a hotbed of racial hatred. So hot, in fact, that the town got the nick name Bombingham. Among those targeted by bombings was the fiery preacher Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. On December 25, 1956, the reverend’s house was bombed while he was inside. The house incurred terrible damage, but Shuttlesworth emerged unharmed. Shuttlesworth’s active agitation for civil rights in Birmingham is what led to the bombing.

In 1953, Shuttlesworth became the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, and after the Brown v. Board decision in 1954, he became determined to secure equal rights for African Americans. In 1956, he created the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. The bombing occurred after the organization was created, and it was no doubt an effort to weaken his resolve, but it failed.

Still determined to make change, in 1957 Shuttlesworth tried to integrate a local whites only high school by enrolling his own daughter. As a result, he was brutally beaten with chains and brass knuckles. Despite his injuries, Shuttlesworth kept moving forward. That same year he and other civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would start the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Dr. King, Shuttlesworth, and others would work together to plan the famous Birmingham children’s marches and civil rights demonstrations, but make no mistake, it was the ground work done by Shuttlesworth that made Birmingham ripe for change. According to Ahmad Ward, Head of Education at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, “Without Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, Birmingham would not have worked…He is the reason King comes to [Birmingham] in the first place.”

Indeed, Shuttlesworth was a very important component to the movement, but differences between he and Dr. King were always a point of contention. According to Diane McWhorter, author of “Carry Me Home,” a book about the struggle in Birmingham, Shuttlesworth “was Martin Luther King’s most effective and insistent foil: blunt where King was soothing, driven where King was leisurely, and most important, confrontational where King was conciliatory — meaning, critically, that he was more upsetting than King in the eyes of the white public” (Nordheimer, 2011).

There backgrounds were even more different than their approaches to the movement. Dr. King was a part of Atlanta’s middle class elite and he was a Morehouse graduate with a Ph. D. Shuttlesworth was born poor in rural Alabama and, at the time, held only a ministerial degree from an unaccredited black school. Needless to say, their upbringing colored the way they saw the movement. To Shuttlesworth, a man of the people, there was much more at stake. There was a greater sense of urgency and a need to be forthright in the face of opposition.

Fred Shuttlesworth, born Freddie Lee Robinson and taking the name Shuttlesworth from his stepfather, was born March 18, 1922. He spent his life preaching the gospel and fighting for the rights of his people. Despite the beatings and bombings he experienced, he never lost his faith in God, and he never gave up. He died on October 5, 2011, leaving behind the great legacy of a movement that changed the world.


Icon Fred Shuttlesworth, overlooked by history, breathed life into civil rights story

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Alabama is the only state in the country where the K-12 history curriculum mentions the late civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth. Historians say that's a shame, considering his key role in events that shaped the nation, but it's also not surprising, since the history of the movement is given relatively short shrift.

Maureen Costello, director of the Teaching Tolerance program at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the center's recent review of all 50 states' history course of study guides found that 16 states don't require any instruction at all about the civil rights movement, and in another 19 coverage is minimal, presenting a simplistic retelling of events.

Shuttlesworth -- fiery, fearless and confrontational -- doesn't fit as neatly into what historian Glenn Eskew describes as a "dumbed down" version of civil rights taught in schools.

While Martin Luther King deserves his place in the pantheon of great leaders, it is often forgotten that, as a leader, King was sometimes pushed from behind, said Eskew, a Georgia State University professor and author of "But for Birmingham, The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle."


Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, family relive moment in history with return to Birmingham school where they were beaten (with slideshow and video)

The last time the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and his daughters were at Birmingham's John Herbert Phillips High School, they ended up in a hospital.

It was Sept. 17, 1957, and Shuttlesworth had taken his two daughters to the all-white school to enroll them in hopes of bettering their education. But no sooner had Shuttlesworth stepped out of the car, than a mob of angry Klansman beat him with brass knuckles, clubs, fists and chains. His wife, Ruby, was stabbed in the hip trying to get her daughters back into the car. His daughter Ruby Fredericka broke her ankle when the car door slammed shut on her leg.

Today, the Shuttlesworth family, along with their then body guard Joe Hendricks and civil rights activist and family friend, Joe Dickson, recalled that day with more than 200 sixth-through-eighth graders at what is now Phillips Academy in downtown Birmingham.

The event was part of the Back-to-School With the HistoryMakers program, launched to help confront the issue of youth violence and instead inspire the young by sharing first-hand history experiences.

HistoryMakers is the nation's largest black video oral history archive. Today's event led to civil rights activists and other history makers sharing their stories in schools across nearly 30 states.


Shuttlesworth, Rev. Fred

“White skin becomes more important than white and pure hearts. The love of Segregation has taken precedence over the Love of God thus it becomes relatively easy for some white men to sing Amazing Grace on Sunday morning in the choirs, and march at night in robes to burn crosses” – Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth (Houck & Dixon, 2006).

Fred Shuttlesworth, born Fred Lee Robinson, was an African American Baptist pastor and pioneering civil rights activist. He worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy to establish the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) , the most important civil rights organization of the time. Shuttlesworth, King, and Abernathy were known as the “Big Three” of the Civil Rights Movement (Manis, 2007).

Shuttlesworth grew up in rural Alabama and studied at Selma University and Alabama State College (now known as Alabama State University). While in school, he began his career as a preacher, preaching at the First Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama. In 1952, after graduating from Alabama State College, Shuttlesworth moved to Birmingham to become the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church (Albert, n.d.).

While in Birmingham, Shuttlesworth became increasingly immersed in the civil rights movement, partnering with organizations such as the Civic League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to increase voter registration in the African American community and to clean up saloons (Manis, 2007). His first involvement in civil rights began in July 1955 when he petitioned the city council to integrate the police force (Houck & Dixon, 2006). The next year, Shuttlesworth founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights in order to overturn Birmingham’s segregation laws. His efforts were in response to an Alabama circuit court’s successful litigation to shut down the NAACP (Houck & Dixon, 2006). In 1957, Shuttlesworth helped to found the SCLC. That same year he was brutalized with baseball bats and bike chains for trying to enroll two of his daughters in an all white elementary school (Houck & Dixon, 2006). Fred Shuttlesworth’s activism made him a target of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The KKK physically attacked him on numerous occasions and blew up his home on December 25th, 1956 (Albert, n.d.). Because he escaped unharmed, Shuttlesworth and his followers believed he was saved because God was calling him to spearhead the fight against segregation (Manis, 2007). Shuttlesworth preached love, non-violence, and faith in God, and he participated in many of the sit-ins and Freedom Rides of the 1960s (Albert, n.d.).

In 1961, Shuttlesworth moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. There, he founded the Greater New Light Baptist Church in 1966. He also helped in organizing the march for voting rights from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. In the 1980s, Shuttlesworth became passionate about providing low-income housing and thus established the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation in Cincinnati. In 2001 President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Citizen’s Medal, the second highest award a civilian can receive. Shuttlesworth retired from his ministry in 2006.

Albert, M. (n.d.). Fred Shuttlesworth: American minister and civil rights activist. In Encyclopedia Britannica online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Fred-Shuttlesworth

Houck, D. W. & Dixon, D. E. (2006). Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth, Rhetoric, Religion, and the Civil Rights Movement (250-251). Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.


Thank you, Christine, for giving us a glimpse of one of the more quiet leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. And thank you Reverend Shuttlesworth for a life well-lived.

MLK is one of my heroes. I have a mug with the Six Principles of Nonviolence on it. And it is good to have big heroes like MLK. But there is something wonderful to learn about the people behind the scenes and the people who paved the way.

I had never heard of Fred Shuttlesworth before I read this. I can never live up to my heroes like MLK. He is larger than life. But I can work and live in courageous ways like Fred Shuttlesworth. He did all the right things, but somehow he still seems like a normal person because he never became an icon.

Christine thanks for showing a little light that pierced the darkness of America’s shame. Fred Shuttlesworth’s light will be here inobstrusively shining for the world to remember but my, what a bright light!


Youth Protests and Voting Rights

Shuttlesworth held fast to his firm belief in direct action and was a key leader throughout the history of the movement, though he had relocated to Cincinnati in the early 1960s and hence routinely travelled back to the South. After the May 14, 1961, attacks on the Freedom Riders, Shuttlesworth provided refuge for the activists, with outreach made to Attorney General Robert Kennedy for assistance. He also convinced Dr. King to have Birmingham become a focal point of the movement and organized well-documented youth-driven marches and protests, in which he was badly hurt at one point in 1963. And Shuttlesworth was an organizer of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights march.

Shuttlesworth was arrested many, many times over the course of his activism, yet in later interviews would talk about the power of his faith in sustaining him.


Shuttlesworth, Fred Lee

One of the founding members of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Fred Shuttlesworth brought a militant voice to the struggle for black equality. In 1963 he drew Martin Luther King and SCLC to Birmingham for a historic confrontation with the forces of segregation. The scale of protest and police brutality of the Birmingham Campaign created a new level of visibility for the civil rights movement and contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Born in Mount Meigs, Alabama, Shuttlesworth was licensed and ordained as a preacher in 1948. He earned an AB (1951) from Selma University and a BS (1953) from Alabama State College. Shuttlesworth served as minister at First Baptist Church in Selma until 1952, and the following year he was called to Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham.

Shuttlesworth became involved in the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1955. When Circuit Judge Walter B. Jones banned the NAACP from activity in the state in 1956, at the urging of Alabama Attorney General John Patterson, Shuttlesworth presided over a 4 June planning meeting for a new organization that became the ACMHR. Shuttlesworth led a mass meeting at Sardis Church the next evening, and was declared president by acclamation, a post he held until 1969.

In November 1956, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation in Montgomery was unconstitutional, Shuttlesworth and the ACMHR made plans to challenge segregation on Birmingham’s buses. The night before their campaign was to begin, a bomb exploded under Shuttlesworth’s parsonage at Bethel Baptist. The house was destroyed, but Shuttlesworth escaped unharmed. The following day, several hundred protesters sat in the sections reserved for whites on Birmingham buses. Twenty-one of the participants were arrested and convicted, and the ACMHR filed suit in federal court to strike down the local law mandating segregation.

Shuttlesworth joined King and C. K. Steele in issuing a call for a conference of southern black leaders in January 1957, “in an effort to coordinate and spur the campaign for integrated transportation in the South” (Papers 4:94). Held at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the meeting laid the foundation for the group that would become SCLC. At a later meeting in August of that year, Shuttlesworth became SCLC’s first secretary.

As SCLC struggled through its early years, Shuttlesworth urged the organization to aggressively confront segregation. “I feel that the leadership in Alabama among Negroes is, at this time, much less dynamic and imaginative than it ought to be,” he wrote to King in April 1959. “Even in our Southern Christian Leadership Conference, I believe we must move now, or else [be] hard put in the not too distant future, to [justify] our existence” (Papers 5:189–190).

In 1963 SCLC joined forces with the ACMHR to protest segregation in Birmingham. SCLC leaders met secretly in January of that year to draw up initial plans for the Birmingham Campaign, known as “Project C”—C for confrontation. Shuttlesworth issued the “Birmingham Manifesto,” which explained the black community’s decision to act. “We act today in full concert with our Hebraic-Christian tradition, the laws of morality and the Constitution of our nation,” Shuttlesworth proclaimed. “We appeal to the citizenry of Birmingham, Negro and white, to join us in this witness for decency, morality, self-respect, and human dignity” (Shuttlesworth, 3 April 1963). On 6 April Shuttlesworth led the campaign’s first march on city hall.

As the campaign continued, tensions between King and Shuttlesworth increased. As a result of injuries from a march, Shuttlesworth was in the hospital during negotiations that produced a one-day halt to demonstrations. In addition to his opposition to the halt, Shuttlesworth resented being left out of the decision. King, however, was able to convince him to publicly support the decision. The Birmingham Campaign ended two days later, with an agreement between the city’s business community and local black leaders that included a commitment to the desegregation of public accommodations, a committee to ensure nondiscriminatory hiring practices in Birmingham, and cooperation in releasing jailed protesters.

Shuttleworth’s confrontational style provided a counterbalance to King’s more measured approach and served to inspire people to action. In his memoir of the Birmingham Campaign, King praised “the fiery words and determined zeal of Fred Shuttlesworth, who had proved to his people that he would not ask anyone to go where he was not willing to lead” (King, 61).


People, Locations, Episodes

*Fred Shuttlesworth was born on this date in 1922. He was a Black civil rights activist and minister.

Born Freddie Lee Robinson in Mount Meigs, Alabama, Shuttlesworth became pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1953 and was Membership Chairman of the Alabama state chapter of the NAACP in 1956, when the State of Alabama formally outlawed it from operating within the state. In 1956 Shuttlesworth and Ed Gardner established the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) to take up the work formerly done by the NAACP.

The ACMHR used both litigation and direct action to pursue its goals. When the authorities ignored the ACMHR's demand that the City hire Black police officers, the organization sued. Similarly, when the United States Supreme Court ruled in December 1956 that bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, was unconstitutional, Shuttlesworth announced that the ACMHR would challenge segregation laws in Birmingham on December 26, 1956. The day before, unknown persons tried to kill Shuttlesworth by placing sixteen sticks of dynamite under his bedroom window.

He escaped unhurt even though his house was heavily damaged. A police officer and Ku Klux Klan member told Shuttlesworth as he came out of his home, "If I were you I'd get out of town as quick as I could". Shuttlesworth told him to tell the Klan that he was not leaving and "I wasn't saved to run." He led a group that integrated Birmingham's buses the next day, then sued after police arrested twenty-one passengers. His congregation built a new parsonage for him and posted sentries outside his house.

In 1957 Shuttlesworth, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. T.J. Jemison, Rev. C.K. Steele, Rev. A.L.Davis, Bayard Rustin and Ella Baker founded the Southern Leadership Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration, later renamed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The SCLC adopted a motto to underscore its commitment to nonviolence: "Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed." When Shuttlesworth and his wife attempted to enroll their children in a previously all-white public school in Birmingham in 1957, a mob of Klansmen attacked them, with the police nowhere to be seen.

His assailants, including a man involved in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, also known as the Birmingham Church Bombing, named Bobby Cherry, beat him with chains and brass knuckles in the street while someone stabbed his wife. Shuttlesworth lost consciousness but was dragged to safety and driven away. In 1958 Shuttlesworth survived another attempt on his life. A church member standing guard saw a bomb and quickly moved it to the street before it went off Shuttlesworth embraced that philosophy, and was not shy in asking King to take a more active role in leading the fight against segregation and warning that history would not look kindly on those who gave "flowery speeches" but did not act on them. He alienated some members of his congregation by devoting as much time as he did to the civil rights movement, at the expense of weddings, funerals and other ordinary church functions. As a result, in 1961 Shuttlesworth moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to Lead the Revelation Baptist Church.

He remained intensely involved in the Birmingham struggle after moving to Cincinnati, and frequently returned. Shuttlesworth participated in the sit-ins against segregated lunch counters in 1960 and took part in the organization and completion of the Freedom Rides in 1961. He worked with the Congress of Racial Equality to organize the Rides and became engaged with ensuring the success of the rides, especially during their stint in Alabama. Shuttlesworth mobilized some of his fellow clergy to assist the rides. After the Riders were badly beaten and nearly killed in Birmingham and Anniston during the Rides, he sent deacons to pick up the Riders from a hospital in Anniston after being brutalized earlier in the day and threatened to be thrown out by the hospital superintendent. He took in the Freedom Riders at the Bethel Baptist Church, allowing them to recuperate after the violence that had occurred earlier in the day. The students involved in the Rides appreciated Shuttlesworth's commitment to the principals of the Freedom Rides ending the segregationist laws of the Jim Crow South. Shuttlesworth's fervent passion for equality made him a role model to many of the Riders.

Shuttlesworth invited SCLC and Dr. King to come to Birmingham in 1963 to lead the campaign to desegregate it through mass demonstrations, what Shuttlesworth called "Project C", the "C" standing for "confrontation". While Shuttlesworth was willing to negotiate with political and business leaders for peaceful abandonment of segregation, he believed, with good reason, that they would not take any steps that they were not forced to take. He suspected their promises could not be trusted on until they acted on them. In 1963, Shuttlesworth was convicted of parading without a permit from the City Commission. On appeals the case reached the US Supreme Court. In its 1969 decision of Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, the Supreme Court reversed Shuttlesworth's conviction. In 1964 he traveled to St. Augustine, Florida, taking part in marches and widely publicized beach wade-ins that led directly to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1965 he was also active in Selma, Alabama, and the march from Selma to Montgomery that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and he returned to St. Augustine in 2004 to take part in a celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the civil rights movement there.

Shuttlesworth organized the Greater New Light Baptist Church in 1966 and founded the "Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation" in 1988 to assist families who might otherwise be unable to buy their own homes. In 1998 Shuttlesworth became an early signer and supporter of the Birmingham Pledge, a grassroots community commitment to combating racism and prejudice. It has since then been used for programs in all fifty states and in more than twenty countries. In 2001, President Bill Clinton presented him with the Presidential Citizens Medal. Named President of the SCLC in August 2004, he resigned later in the year, complaining that, "deceit, mistrust and a lack of spiritual discipline and truth have eaten at the core of this once-hallowed organization".

In 2005, prompted by the removal of a non-cancerous brain tumor in August of the previous year, he gave his final sermon in front of 300 people at the Greater New Light Baptist Church. He and his second wife, Sephira, moved to downtown Birmingham where he was receiving medical treatment. In 2008, the Birmingham, Alabama Airport Authority approved changing the name of the Birmingham International Airport to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. On October 5, 2011, Shuttlesworth died at the age of 89 in his hometown of Birmingham, AL. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute has announced that it intends to include Shuttlesworth's burial site on the Civil Rights History Trail.


Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth

One of the most prominent figures of the Civil Rights Movement, the Reverend Fred Lee Shuttlesworth was born on March 18, 1922 in Montgomery County, Alabama. Shuttlesworth was raised by his mother, Alberta Robinson Shuttlesworth, and his stepfather, William Nathan Shuttlesworth, a farmer in rural Oxmoor, Alabama.

An alumnus of Selma University (1951) and Alabama State College (1952), Shuttlesworth later became pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, where he led mass meetings and established the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). When the United States Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation in Montgomery, Ala., was illegal, Shuttlesworth immediately announced that the ACMHR was going to test segregation laws in Birmingham. His plans angered local leaders of the Ku Klux Klan, who bombed his home. Shuttlesworth, his family and a guest emerged unharmed from the blast. He led a protest rally the next day.

Always at the forefront of the fight for equality, Shuttlesworth suffered physically for his efforts. In 1957, he was beaten by an angry mob for trying to enroll his daughters in an all white school. That same year, he joined with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, Bayard Rustin and others to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He also assisted the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) in organizing the Freedom Rides. Shuttlesworth was hospitalized in 1963 as a result of being attacked by Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor’s water cannons as he led a mass non-violent demonstration.

Shuttlesworth persuaded King to focus civil rights efforts in Birmingham. The subsequent protests drew national attention and helped to set the stage for legislation that later became the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which effectively ended segregation of public facilities in the United States.

In 2001, Shuttlesworth received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President William J. Clinton and in 2004, the Jefferson Award for Humanitarian Service, constituting the two highest awards bestowed upon an American citizen by the federal government.

In July 2008, the Birmingham Airport Authority voted to honor Shuttlesworth by renaming the city’s airport, the largest in the state of Alabama, in his honor. His alma mater, Alabama State University, also named its main cafeteria the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Dining Hall, in his honor.


Watch the video: Fred Shuttlesworth: My Devilish Boyhood