The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a giant of the civil rights movement known for his decades of work in support of desegregation, died Wednesday in Birmingham, Alabama. Shuttlesworth is among the iconic figures honored in the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta. King once called Shuttlesworth "the most courageous civil rights fighter in the South."
When the US Supreme Court ruled against segregated busing in Montgomery, Alabama, Shuttlesworth rallied the membership of a group he established in May 1956 — the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights — and they challenged the practice of segregated busing in Birmingham.
"He was the soul and heart of the Birmingham movement," Georgia Congressman John Lewis told NPR. It was Birmingham, he said, that brought the Civil Rights Act of 1964. "Fred Shuttlesworth had the vision, the determination never to give up, never to give in," Lewis said. "He led an unbelievable children’s crusade. It was the children who faced dogs, fire hoses, police billy clubs that moved and shook the nation."
Shuttlesworth also helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with King and other civil rights leaders and paid a steep price for his efforts: his home was bombed on Christmas Day in 1956, when he and his family remarkably escaped injury and he was badly hurt in 1957 when he was beaten with chains and whips as he sought to integrate an all-white public school. In 1963, he was injured again when a fire hose was turned on him during a protest against segregation in Birmingham.
In the 1980s, he established the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation in Cincinnati, which provided grants to help low-income families buy homes. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute has announced that it intends to include Shuttlesworth’s burial site on the Civil Rights History Trail.
This video from the Visionary Project does a good job in detailing Shuttlesworth’s astonishing accomplishments in the fight for racial justice.