Most of us are mourning the loss of a man, Steve Jobs, that was an innovator and created a platform and tools that all of use in one form or another (I-Phone, I-Tunes, I-Pad, I-Pod, Mac book, etc..). Steve Jobs was a pioneer and leader in the world of Information technology and
he will surely be missed by all.
We MUST also acknowledge, mourn the loss, and celebrate the life and never forget one of the most relentless figures of the Civil Rights Movement, the Reverend Fred Lee Shuttlesworth, who also passed away this week.
Rev. Shuttlesworth was born on March 18, 1922, in Montgomery County, Alabama. By 1950, Shuttlesworth was the pastor of First Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama, and in 1953, he became pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
In May of 1956, at a mass meeting at Bethel, Shuttlesworth established the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). In December of that year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, was illegal. Shuttlesworth immediately announced that the ACMHR was going to test segregation laws in Birmingham. On Christmas night the Shuttlesworth house was blown up by sixteen sticks of Ku Klux Klan dynamite. Shuttlesworth, who landed in the basement and whose bedroom was blown apart, and visiting Deacon Charles Robinson were unharmed. Shuttlesworth, then, led a rally the very next day. He was beaten by police in 1957 for trying to enroll his daughter in an all white school and that same year joined with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and Bayard Rustin to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He also assisted the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) in organizing the Freedom Rides. Shuttlesworth was hospitalized in 1963 as a result of being attacked by Sheriff Bull Connor’s water cannons as he led a mass nonviolent demonstration. However, Shuttlesworth continued to work to secure Birmingham’s public accommodations and the desegregation of its schools.
In 1966, Shuttlesworth became the pastor of the Greater New Light Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and served as founding director of the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation. The recipient of numerous awards, Shuttlesworth is a remarkable figure and unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement!!
I never met Rev. Shuttlesworth or have been honored to be in his presence, but on behalf of my family, “thank you Rev. Shuttlesworth!!” Thank you for praying, shouting, marching, and paving a way that allowed members of my family, my friends, and will allow those that will come behind us the opportunity to benefit from the adversity you and others like you had to overcome in efforts for us to be where we are today.
As a race, a community, and a country, I know we have come a long way since the dawn of the civil rights movement, but I am not blind to the fact we have not completed our journey. May you rest in peace Rev. Shuttlesworth, the responsibility of continuing to build bridges is on us now……let’s get to work!!