Fred Shuttlesworth is my hero, by Jim LaGrand

June 14th, 2018

The Birmingham preacher and civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth is a hero of mine. It’s not only for his feats of daring and bravery, although there were plenty of those. He survived 3 bombings perpetrated by the Klan, the first of them on Christmas 1956. When the Klan tried to chase him out of town, he defiantly responded, “I wasn’t saved to run.” In 1957, he was jumped by a group of Klansmen and beaten with chains and brass knuckles while walking his daughters to the local (all-white) high school to enroll them. Shuttlesworth often said he would either kill segregation or be killed by it. His almost-supernatural bravery scared and awed some at the time.

Shuttlesworth is also heroic for his commitment to non-violence in the hardest, most challenging circumstances. He preached sermons about non-violence days, even hours, after being attacked or bombed. He devoted much of his life to his community and to Bethel church in the Collegeville neighborhood of Birmingham.

It was a privilege to visit Bethel church with the Returning to the Roots of the Civil Rights Movement tour group and a thrill to stand behind his pulpit now housed at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.


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