His name is not as widely familiar as Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, Joseph Lowery, John Lewis and Andrew Young. But in the struggle for civil rights — especially in Birmingham, Ala. — no one played a bigger role and few paid a higher price than the fiery Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.
Historian Andrew Manis (now on faculty at Macon State College) chronicled Shuttlesworth’s personal journey and powerful influence in A Fire You Can’t Put Out (1999, Univ. of Alabama Press) — winner of the 2000 Lillian Smith Book Award.
About that time, Manis brought Shuttlesworth to Macon. I have never heard anyone speak of the civil rights movement in such clearly spiritual terms.
Learning that the civil rights leader (who endured a 16-stick dynamite explosion at his home and another assault on his family for trying to enroll a child in a white school) had become a pastor in Cincinnati, I paid him a a visit for a story in Baptists Today.
My friend and then-director for Baptists Today, Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler, arranged the interview.
It was summer so I took my then 8-year-old daughter along to visit with Carolyn and Joe’s grandchildren and to meet this unsung hero.
Those attending the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Memphis this summer will also have the chance to meet the octogenarian civil rights leader and hear Manis recount his incredible story.
The event will take place at 9:00 AM (CT) on Thursday, June 19, in Ballroom E of the Memphis/Cook County Convention Center. There is no charge. The Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society will present its annual Courage Award to Rev. Shuttlesworth.
(Photo from michigandaily.com)