8 Fascinating Facts About Civil Rights Leader Fred Shuttlesworth

Early Life 

Shuttlesworth was born in Mount Meigs, Alabama during the height of lynching and segregation in the south. In his youth, his family moved to Birmingham for better economic opportunities and education. He graduated from high school as class valedictorian. Then Shuttlesworth went on to earn his education from Selma University and Alabama State College. He would go on to become one of the most prominent civil rights activist in 1950s and onward.

The Beginning of his Activism

In 1953, Shuttlesworth became pastor at Birmingham’s Bethel Baptist Church where he started fighting for civil rights in the city. His natural charisma and talent as a leader attracted many people to his side. He began to push for Black police, and in 1956, he founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights.

Civil rights leaders Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., left, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, center, and Rev. Ralph Abernathy hold a news conference in Birmingham, Ala., in this May 8, 1963.

The Big Three

His work in Birmingham attracted the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Shuttlesworth, King and Ralph David Abernathy were instrumental figures in the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The men were commonly known as the Big Three, spearheading the movement and leading countless protests against segregation.

Birmingham Protests 

Shuttlesworth and King worked together to focus their efforts in Birmingham by leading youth protest in the 1960s. He was instrumental in getting support and national support from Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

“It was in that city in the spring of 1963 that Mr. Shuttlesworth, an important ally of Dr. King, organized two tumultuous weeks of daily demonstrations by black children, students, clergymen and others against a rigidly segregated society,” according to The New York Times

Shuttlesworth also provided housing and resources for the student protesters and the Freedom Riders.

In this undated photo, Shuttlesworth stands near his Birmingham home after it was bombed.

KKK Terror Survivor

During his early days in Birmingham, his home was a attacked by the KKK. The Washington Post says that on Christmas Day in 1956, 15 sticks of dynamite exploded beneath his bedroom window. The floor was blown up from under him, but he received only a bump on the head. Shuttlesworth was like many civil rights leaders who had run-ins with extremely brutal police. He was arrested countless times and injured by cops during a protest in Birmingham. Also, he and his wife were attacked by the KKK when they tired to integrate their daughter in a white school.

The North and South 

In the 1960s, Shuttlesworth was constantly moving back and for from Cincinnati and Birmingham. At this time, he created the Revelation Baptist Church and was still heading many protests in the south.

Shuttlesworth VS Eugene “Bull” Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety

Shuttlesworth was one of the architects of the Selma March to Montgomery, Project Confrontation, Greensboro, NC protests and St. Augustine FL protests. Eugene “Bull” Connor was one of the biggest roadblocks to desegregation in Alabama. Shuttlesworth had many run-ins with him and Connor was the reason for many extreme acts protesters faced. In a 1963 protest,  Connor was told that Rev. Shuttlesworth had been taken away in an ambulance, Connor replied, “I wish they’d carried him away in a hearse,” The New York Times reported in 1963. All of Connor’s hatred and racism backfired because the images of police brutality against the protesters showed that segregation was unjust. After the death of MLK and Abernathy, Shuttlesworth was the elder statesmen of the movement.


In the 1980s, Shuttlesworth focused his attention on housing discrimination in Cincinnati, and helped many people get homes by providing loans. He was awarded with the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001. Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport was named in his honor in 2008. In addition to his honors, he served as SCLC president for a short period near the end of his life.

source: atlantablackstar.com by

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