Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth at CBF

In my opinion one of the most important happenings at the meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship occurred Thursday morning. It has not received very much fanfare though. Each year the W.H. Whitsitt Heritage Society gives a "Courage Award" to someone within the Baptist family that has with his/her life been a model of Baptist courage.

This year the award went to Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. If you don't know that name, I could put my professor hat on and tell you to "go look him up." However, I will provide a brief description.

Rev. Shuttlesworth was the most important leader/agitator for Civil Rights in the city of Birmingham (nicknamed "Bombingham" during that era because of all the Klan bombings that happened). He served as the pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1953 and although a member of the NAACP, he organized the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights in 1956, specifically for the purpose of pushing civil rights for African-Americans in Birmingham.

Shuttlesworth was a firey preacher and a force to be reckoned with. His house was bombed on Christmas Day in 1956. The dynamite was placed under his bedroom window. He came out of the ruins unhurt. In 1957, Shuttlesworth was almost beaten to death by a gang of white ruffians the day he tried to enroll his children in a white school. That same crowd stabbed his wife in the buttocks. She quipped afterwards to the press that she lamented the fact that decency wouldn't allow her to show everyone the scar!

Andrew Manis wrote the definitive biography of Shuttlesworth called A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. It is well worth the read.

Bruce Prescott on his blog, has included a video clip of the presentation to Shuttlesworth. It was particularly and appropriate award giving that Dr. King was assassinated just a few blocks down the road from where this award was presented.

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