Fred Shuttlesworth dies at 89

Fred Shuttlesworth dies at 89


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



King and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy were discussing views of Christ’s Resurrection and

the Rev. Shuttlesworth took their comments as doubt about the historical truth

of the Resurrection. The Rev. Shuttlesworth reacted so intensely to King’s suggestion

that the disciples may have seen an apparition that King never seemed comfortable

discussing theology with him again.



Civil Rights Leader Fred Shuttlesworth dies at 89

Civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth has died at the age of 89, according to family members. Shuttlesworth helped lead the fight against segregation in Birmingham before his 1961 move to Cincinnati, where he served as Pastor at the Greater New Light Baptist Church in Avondale for more than 40 years, working tirelessly for non-violent change. In 2009, Birmingham renamed its airport the Birmingham/Shuttlesworth International Airport after the activist. Shuttlesworth endured beatings and bombings, but never gave up in high fight for people to be treated equally.  . . ..

“Beatings—jailing—violence—dogs—the whole bit. Fred was always on the front line.” Marjorie Parham, formerly of the Cincinnati Herald, said. Shuttlesworth said Ku Klux Klan members tried to kill him at least 10 times. “He was almost invincible, you know. They couldn’t shake him. They couldn’t get rid of him. He just kept coming back and back and back,” Don Spencer, of Avondale, said. One of those attempts—with 16 sticks of dynamite—permanently changed his outlook on life. “Christmas, 1956, when the bomb went off in the store at the house, I don’t have a picture of that,” Rev Fred Shuttlesworth said of the incident in a 2002 interview. “If you had that you can see why I don’t get excited. It blew the corner off the house — the springs out from under my bed — the wall between my head and the dynamite was shattered. It took the fear out of me and it made me know that god saved me to lead the fight so that I was never fearful after that.”

As Fred Shuttlesworth carried the load in Birmingham, his work inspired a young pastor rising to prominence in Montgomery, Alabama. His name was Martin Luther King, Jr. “Martin worked on a higher sphere in terms of eloquence and loftiness of speech and beauty of mind and was able to do and do things, where Fred was down at the grass roots,” Rev. Lynch said. “He was right down there in the trenches. He was just as important as Martin was and I rate Fred as equal—as a hero in the civil rights movement—as Martin Luther King, Jr.” Shuttlesworth kept fighting for justice—going against Cincinnati Gas & Electric. “When they shut off the gas and electric they are, in fact, inviting death, suffering and hardship to people,” Rev. Shuttlesworth said.

In 1967, he was philosophical about returning to Birmingham to serve a five-day jail sentence for contempt.”First of all, it’s a matter of honor and integrity,” Rev. Shuttlesworth said. “I think a person has a right to bear the consequences of his actions and then the next thing is that this suffering must be done to purify the country.” That same thinking applied to a 1981 demonstration at the White House against social program cuts. “I do expect to get arrested,” Rev. Shuttlesworth said in a 1981 interview. “I do think it’s a valuable thing that people must say to their government at the highest level of government with a non-violent participation and persuasion — we are not going to be silent.” . . .

“Many of the freedoms and concerns we’re enjoying in terms of economic development, jobs, education, spirituality, is because of Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth,” Dr. Charles Steele of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said. “There are people who are enjoying his legacy that have no idea,” Beaupre said. “People who have jobs that they wouldn’t have had—that can vote that couldn’t vote before—that can drink from fountains that they couldn’t drink from before.” “I think that our young people should think of the sacrifices he made to get ahead and get the rights that we have now,” Donald Spencer said.

What is the legacy of the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth? “I would say courage in the face of danger—in the face of all odds—perseverance—stick-to-it-iveness—and tenacity,” Rev. Lynch said. Shuttlesworth himself reflected in 2002 on his contributions to mankind. “I hope my life has been inspirational to young people and to really all people because if we realize we’re on this earth for God’s purpose — this brotherhood — that’s the main thing,” Rev. Shuttlesworth said. “Not to just be seen because I don’t think people ought to be a show. We ought to live our lives — we ought to live them in relationship to others and try to do as

Source: KyPost

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Fred Shuttlesworth, Birmingham civil rights legend, dies at 89 Wednesday, October 05, 2011—By Greg Garrison—Birmingham, Alabama—The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the driving force behind the Birmingham integration efforts in the 1950s and early 1960s that energized the national civil rights movement, died this morning. He was 89. The Rev. Shuttlesworth, who was brutally beaten by a mob, sprayed with city fire hoses, arrested by police 35 times and also blown out of his bed by a Ku Klux Klan bomb during his struggle against segregation in Birmingham, said he never feared death.

“I tried to get killed in Birmingham and go home to God because I knew it would be better for you in Birmingham,” he once told an audience of students at Lawson State Community College. He founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights in 1956, when he began violating Birmingham’s bus segregation law. He risked his life again and again—his house and his church were bombed; he was beaten by a mob—to pave the way for the civil rights.”That Fred Shuttlesworth did not become a martyr was not for lack of trying,” said his biographer, Andrew Manis, author of A Fire You Can’t Put Out. “There was not a person in the civil rights movement who put himself in the position of being killed more often than Fred Shuttlesworth.” The Rev. Shuttlesworth is survived by his wife, Sephira Shuttlesworth, and his children, Patricia Shuttlesworth Massengill, Ruby Shuttlesworth Bester, Fred L. Shuttlesworth Jr., and Carolyn Shuttlesworth. . . .

The relationship between King and the Rev. Shuttlesworth was delicate as well. Manis recounts one time in which King and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy were discussing views of Christ’s Resurrection and the Rev. Shuttlesworth took their comments as doubt about the historical truth of the Resurrection. The Rev. Shuttlesworth reacted so intensely to King’s suggestion that the disciples may have seen an apparition that King never seemed comfortable discussing theology with him again, Manis said.Yet King knew how vital Shuttlesworth was to the movement. “They were not close friends; they were in a sense business associates,” Manis said. “He appreciated what Shuttlesworth was doing.” But their differing backgrounds and approaches meant they would never be close friends, as King and Abernathy were. “That kept King at arm’s length from Shuttlesworth,” Manis said. “The movement took all kinds of people. They both understood their roles.”

The Rev. Shuttlesworth had begun pestering King as early as 1959 to focus national demonstrations on Birmingham, writing letters impatient and irritated in tone. “Shuttlesworth helped the rest of the movement understand the way Birmingham was symbolically the strongest bastion of segregation in the South, with Bull Connor himself being the symbol of segregation,” Manis said. “That was clear to Shuttlesworth early on.” It may have been clear to King too, but it wasn’t until the disappointment of King’s efforts in Albany, Ga., that he felt the timing was right for Birmingham in 1963. The success in Birmingham propelled King to even greater prominence. When King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he invited a large entourage with him to accept the prize in Oslo, Norway. The Rev. Shuttlesworth wasn’t one of them, and he was deeply hurt. “You can make the argument King would not have won the prize without the success in Birmingham, and that would not have been possible without the groundwork laid by Shuttlesworth,” Manis said. “He was upset that he was not included in the entourage to Oslo. I don’t exactly blame him.”

The Rev. Shuttlesworth called King about the matter and King apologized, saying he hadn’t thought it through. But the Rev. Shuttlesworth was also not invited to a subsequent celebration of the prize in Atlanta. Manis writes that the Rev. Shuttlesworth held a residual anger toward King, and disagreed with King’s not keeping the pressure on in Birmingham. The Rev. Shuttlesworth continued to participate in national protests. The Rev. Shuttlesworth went through infighting with the congregation at Revelation Baptist Church in Cincinnati, which caused a church split. He then helped found Greater New Light Baptist Church in 1966 with the help of supporters from the split. He had remained pastor of Greater New Light until his retirement in 2005.

Even after he moved to Ohio, the Rev. Shuttlesworth still seemed to spend much of his time in Birmingham. “I used to say I preached in Cincinnati and pastored in Birmingham,” he said. Shuttlesworth returned to Birmingham in 2008, living for awhile in a downtown apartment after undergoing therapy for a stroke he suffered in 2007. The Birmingham International Airport was named after him and he attended the premiere of a documentary highlighting his work at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where a statue of him stands outside. He often reflected on the many confrontations in his life. “Confrontation is not bad,” he said. “Goodness is supposed to confront evil.”—Blog.Al

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Photos Remembering Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth: 1922-2011

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Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, born Freddie Lee Robinson, (March 18, 1922 – October 5, 2011) was a U.S. civil rights activist who led the fight against segregation and other forms of racism as a minister in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was instrumental in the 1963 Birmingham Campaign, and continued to work against racism and for alleviation of the problems of the homeless in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he took up a pastorate in 1961. He returned to Birmingham after his retirement in 2007. The Birmingham Airport is named after him.

Born 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 May, 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 raised almost all of its funds from local sources at mass meetings. It 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.

On December 25, 1956, unknown persons tried to kill Shuttlesworth by placing sixteen sticks of dynamite under his bedroom window. Shuttlesworth somehow escaped unhurt even though his house was heavily damaged. A police officer, who also belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, 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.” Fred Shuttlesworth 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. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy from Montgomery, Rev. Joseph Lowery from Mobile, Alabama, Rev. T.J. Jemison from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Rev. C.K. Steele from Tallahassee, Florida, Rev. A.L.Davis from New Orleans, Louisiana, Bayard Rustin and Ella Baker founded the Southern Leadership Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration, later renamed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The SCLC adopted a motto to underscore its commitment to nonviolence: “Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed.”

Shuttlesworth embraced that philosophy, even though his own personality was combative, headstrong and sometimes blunt-spoken to the point that he frequently antagonized his colleagues in the movement as well as his opponents. He 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 take up the pastorage of the Revelation Baptist Church. He remained intensely involved in the Birmingham struggle after moving to Cincinnati, and frequently returned to help lead actions. Shuttlesworth was apparently personally fearless, even though he was aware of the risks he ran. Other committed activists were scared off or mystified by his willingness to accept the risk of death. Shuttlesworth himself vowed to “kill segregation or be killed by it.”

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.—Wikipedia

posted 7 October 2011

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Rev Shuttlesworth Story  /  Fred Shuttlesworth: My Relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fred Shuttlesworth Overview  /  Fred Shuttlesworth: Stopping at Nothing for Equal Rights

Fred Shuttlesworth: My Devilish Boyhood  /  Fred Shuttlesworth: Advice to Young African Americans

Fred Shuttlesworth: Fighting Segregation from the Pulpit  /  Fred Shuttlesworth: America’s Future

Fred Shuttlesworth: My Greatest Achievement  / Fred Shuttlesworth: My Greatest Regret

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Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change

By John Lewis

The Civil Rights Movement gave rise to the protest culture we know today, and the experiences of leaders like Congressman Lewis have never been more relevant. Now, more than ever, this nation needs a strong and moral voice to guide an engaged population through visionary change. Congressman John Lewis was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a key role in the struggle to end segregation. Despite more than forty arrests, physical attacks, and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. He is the author of his autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of a Movement, and is the recipient of numerous awards from national and international institutions, including the Lincoln Medal; the John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage” Lifetime Achievement Award (the only one of its kind ever awarded); the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, among many others.

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The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham’s Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

By Andrew M. Manis

In this intriguing work, the first full-scale biography of Birmingham’s Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth (“perhaps the most unsung of the many heroes of the American civil rights movement”), religious historian Manis compellingly depicts a dual, combustible life. While providing insights into Shuttleworth’s pastoral work and family life, he also offers a lengthy analysis of his subject’s civil rights activities. He contends that Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference went to Birmingham on Shuttlesworth’s direct invitation and that they owed their success there largely to Shuttlesworth’s having organized a large and loyal cadre of demonstrators over seven years. It was Shuttlesworth’s tenacity and courage, Manis suggests, that toppled Birmingham’s virulent racism. Based largely on interviews with Shuttlesworth, this well-written and -researched book offers valuable new information and insights into a crucial era of Southern and African American history.—Library Journal

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