A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

Synopsis

When Fred Shuttlesworth suffered only a bump on the head in the 1956 bombing of his home, members of his church called it a miracle. Shuttlesworth took it as a sign that God would protect him on the mission that had made him a target that night. Standing in front of his demolished home, Shuttlesworth vigorously renewed his commitment to integrate Birmingham's buses, lunch counters, police force, and parks. The incident transformed him, in the eyes of Birmingham blacks, from an up-and-coming young minister to a virtual folk hero and, in the view of white Birmingham, from obscurity to rabble-rouser extraordinaire.

From his 1956 founding of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights through the historic demonstrations of 1963, driven by a sense of divine mission, Shuttlesworth pressured Jim Crow restrictions in Birmingham with radically confrontational acts of courage. His intensive campaign pitted him against the staunchly segregationist police commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor and ultimately brought him to the side of Martin Luther King, Jr., and to the inner chambers of the Kennedy White House. Throughout these struggles, Shuttles-worth demonstrated incredible courage and persistence in the face of danger. For that reason King himself referred to Shuttlesworth as "one of the nation's most courageous freedom fighters", and without him and other such local leaders, King could not have accomplished what he did.

Andrew M. Manis argues that, during a ministry that extended beyond Birmingham and into the 1990s, Shuttlesworth displayed in undiluted form the fiery, combative spirituality of African American religion. Throughout the book, Manis emphasizes Shuttlesworth's dual role aspastor and civil rights leader, stressing Shuttlesworth's understanding of his responsibility as a Christian minister as the driving force behind his civil rights activism.

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