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In Memoriam: Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Hero of the Civil Rights Movement

The Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, a courageous leader of the civil rights movement, died today at the age of 89. You can read his obituary at the New York Times or at the Washington Post. In Rev. Shuttlesworth's memory, we share the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

There was one threat to the reign of white supremacy in Birmingham. As an outgrowth of the Montgomery bus boycott, protest movements had sprung up in numerous cities across the South. In Birmingham, one of the nation's most courageous freedom fighters, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, had organized the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights---A.C.H.R.--in the spring of 1956. Shuttlesworth, a wiry, energetic, and indomitable man, had set out to change Birmingham and to end for all time the terrorist, racist rule of Bull Connor.

Why We Can't Wait (p 52)

Chapman_Shuttlesworth kneels_scan

Fred Shuttlesworth leads Birmingham marchers in prayer before their arrest. (Joe Chapman)

At an organizing meeting at Harry Belafonte's apartment in New York City, Shuttlesworth and King spoke to supporters of the situation in Birmingham, and of the risks faced by those willing to take action:

Shuttlesworth, wearing the scars of earlier battles, brought a sense of the danger as well as the earnestness of our crusade into that peaceful New York living room. Although many of those present had worked with S.C.L.C. in the past, there was a silence almost like the shock of a fresh discovery when Shuttlesworth said, "You have to be prepared to die before you can begin to live."

Why We Can't Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr. (p 60)