Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth’s biography appears in the introduction to his June 4, 1957 speech in Birmingham, Alabama. In his sixth annual message to the ACMHR, Reverend Shuttlesworth adopts the voice of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. He warns Birmingham, Alabama and the nation that “judgment is at hand.” Like “God’s people of old,” members of the ACMHR have righteously withstood police brutality, injustice in the courts, firings, beatings, and bombings. Like Babylon, Birmingham is ruled by mad men drunk “off the wine of the Southern Way of Life, and have become mad with power.” Many share in the judgment: mad judges, mad politicians, mad governors, mad police officials, mad whites, and even mad blacks, who refuse “to speak or deal justly with other men whose color happens to be different from theirs.” But Shuttlesworth saves most of his prophetic bile for the madness of the white church, “an incubator of classism and racism.” The white pulpit is ashamed to speak out for “freedom, justice, equality and brotherhood.” Shame, too, is on the Negro preacher who similarly does not speak out. Finally, the righteous army of Christ will prevail if its good soldiers will only keep their hearts and minds focused on Christ and his word.
Sixth Annual Message to the Alabama Christian Movement for Human
Rights, Birmingham, Alabama
June 5, 1962
Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, that made all
the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore
the nations are mad. Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl
for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed. We would
have healed Babylon, but she is not healed: forsake her, and let us
go every one into his own country: for her judgment reacheth unto
heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies. The Lord hath brought
forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in Zion on the
work of the Lord our God.