Fred Shuttlesworth Dies at the Age of 89

Fred Shuttlesworth

The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, one of the most important figures of the civil rights movement, has died at a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. He was 89 years old.

Shuttlesworth led the Birmingham civil rights protests in the early 1960s and convinced Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy that Birmingham was the place where Jim Crow should be confronted head-on. In Diane McWhorter’s superb account of the Birmingham crisis, Carry Me Home,  she writes that Martin Luther King was unfocused and a plodder and that it was Fred Shuttlesworth who pushed him to greatness.

Fred Shuttlesworth had ties to higher education. In 1956 he accompanied his friend and former classmate Autherine Lucy to Tuscaloosa where she attempted to integrate the University of Alabama. “It was a tremendously tense affair,” Shuttlesworth told JBHE several years ago. “All eyes of the students were upon us and we were helpless. There were several marshals, but I felt that if things had broken loose, we would have been defenseless. She was one of the bravest young women I ever met.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I did not know him personally, but respected his work and his character. I thank God for this civil rights pioneer.

  2. We do appreciate all of the sacrifices that Rev. Shuttlesworth made for us.
    There are not many of these “GIANTS” of the modern civil rights movement left here with us. We’d better study them thoroughly. Soon we may not have any example of a magnetized pointer with which to build a compass to find that true North bearing.
    We seem to be directionless people in need of an instrument for navigation.

  3. Rev Shuttlesworth led a revival in my hometown Baptist Church in California when I was a pre-teen. I remember being so moved by his sermon that I actually walked up to the front of the church and joined that evening, something my parents, and my Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teachers had been “suggesting” that I do for several months. I think that I can say truly that he galvanized my faith that evening which has taken me through some extraordinary experiences. Amazing, too, is the fact that if he died at 89 years old, he could not have been more than about 25 years old at the time…

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