Black Baptist Women and the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1963: Historians and Journalists during and Immediately after the Civil Rights Movement Emphasized the Role of Religion in the Movement. They Showed How the Black Church and Its Leaders Provided the Charisma, Finance, Inspiration, Spiritual Nurture, and the Foot Soldiers That Made the Movement Successful

By Fallin, Wilson, Jr. | Baptist History and Heritage, Summer-Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Black Baptist Women and the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1963: Historians and Journalists during and Immediately after the Civil Rights Movement Emphasized the Role of Religion in the Movement. They Showed How the Black Church and Its Leaders Provided the Charisma, Finance, Inspiration, Spiritual Nurture, and the Foot Soldiers That Made the Movement Successful


Fallin, Wilson, Jr., Baptist History and Heritage


Most of the attention was lavished on ordained clergy and prominent male leadership figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Wyatt T. Walker, James Farmer, and Fred Shuttlesworth. In recent years, more attention has been given to the work of religious women, especially those of grassroots importance in the various civil rights campaigns. Scholars, many of them females, have sought to show how the history of the black women's religious experience informed their sense of social responsibility and activism. One of the most important civil rights campaigns occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, between 1956 and 1963, and a study of this campaign demonstrates the importance of women at all levels.

Before looking at the role of women, especially Baptist women involved in the Birmingham movement, an examination of the movement's origin and major features is necessary. In 1956, many persons considered Birmingham, which was often referred to as the Johannesburg of the South, to be the most segregated city in the United States. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) became the most active group in protesting discrimination in Birmingham and throughout Alabama. The outlawing of the NAACP by the state of Alabama was the spark that set off a mass-based Civil Rights Movement. Led by Attorney General John Patterson, the state of Alabama successfully won an injunction against the NAACP, preventing the association from operating in the state until it complied with Alabama's new registration requirements for organizations headquartered outside the state. One requirement was that an organization must present its membership rolls to the state, but the Alabama NAACP officials were convinced that adhering to this requirement would bring all kinds of reprisals against its members.

The Importance of Fred Shuttlesworth

One person perturbed by the ban of the NAACP was Fred Shuttlesworth, pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church. Shortly after the ban, Shuttlesworth proposed the holding of a mass meeting to see if blacks in Birmingham wanted to organize to fight for their rights. He convinced four pastors, N. H. Smith, Jr., G. E. Pruitt, T. L. Lane, and R. L. Alford, to join him in the call. On June 5, 1956, at the Sardis Baptist Church, these pastors led in the formation of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR).

The strategy of the ACMHR combined direct action and legal redress. Members of the group would break segregation laws, and then they would challenge those laws in the courts. This approach represented a radical departure from prior civil rights activity in Birmingham. Before the implementation of this new strategy, groups would petition the city, or they would challenge segregation laws in the courts. Now black Alabamans were actually breaking the laws.

The ACMHR met every Monday night. Members adopted the slogan, "The Movement is Moving." A mass-based religiously orientated Civil Rights Movement had started in Birmingham, and this movement, more militant than the NAACP, was made up of pastors and church people who were convinced that God would give them the victory over the forces of segregation in the city.

The importance of Shuttlesworth for the Birmingham movement cannot be overstated. In 1953, Shuttlesworth had moved to Birmingham to pastor the Bethel Baptist Church. He immediately joined the NAACP and became its membership secretary. The 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision that outlawed segregated schools inspired Shuttlesworth to believe that African American freedom was possible and propelled him into increased involvement in civil rights. He attended meetings of the Montgomery bus boycott and communicated with its leadership. When the NAACP was outlawed in Alabama, Shuttlesworth sprang into action and formed the ACMHR.

Shuttlesworth possessed a stubborn will, indomitable faith, and a sense of divine compulsion and destiny. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Black Baptist Women and the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1963: Historians and Journalists during and Immediately after the Civil Rights Movement Emphasized the Role of Religion in the Movement. They Showed How the Black Church and Its Leaders Provided the Charisma, Finance, Inspiration, Spiritual Nurture, and the Foot Soldiers That Made the Movement Successful
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.