Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth was a civil rights leader from Birmingham, Alabama. Shuttlesworth grew up in a rural, black community and was educated at Selma University and Alabama State Teachers College. He became a Baptist minister and served a church in Selma and later in Birmingham. In 1956, he founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) and the following year, along with Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He also helped the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organize the Freedom Rides, two interracial bus rides through the South that tested the enforcement of recent Supreme Court rulings
A fearless advocate of racial equality, King called Shuttlesworth "one of the nation's most courageous freedom fighters." Shuttlesworth was often subjected to violence as a consequence of his actions. In 1956, Shuttlesworth announced that unless the Birmingham city buses were desegregated, black residents would begin sitting in the front of the buses on December 26. On Christmas night, a bomb blast destroyed his home. Incredibly, Shuttlesworth emerged only slightly injured, and the demonstration took place as planned. Over the years, he was assaulted by police dogs and knocked unconscious by a high-pressure fire hose.
In 1957, three years after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional, Shuttlesworth and his wife escorted their children to Phillips High School in Birmingham in an attempt to integrate the all-white public school. A white mob that gathered beat him with brass knuckles and chains, and stabbed his wife. Although he was nearly killed by the mob, Shuttlesworth did not strike back at his attackers, but instead moved through the hostile crowd as best he could. At a mass meeting that evening, Shuttlesworth used the incident to teach a lesson on nonviolence. He asked everyone who was angry about the attack to stand. Everyone stood. Then he asked everyone who had been beaten that day to remain standing. Everyone sat down. He said, "That's strange, I was beat up and I'm not angry." He went on to say, "You got to suffer for what you believe in. . . . It's going to better the lives of people around you and behind you. That's what we are fighting for. . . . That's what the movement is all about."
Over the years, Shuttlesworth was instrumental in organizing bus boycotts, student sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and boycotts of segregated businesses, and he initiated lawsuits attacking segregation ordinances. In March 1965, he helped organize the march from Selma to Montgomery to protest voting discrimination in Alabama.
Today, Reverend Shuttlesworth is a pastor in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he continues to fight injustice. In 1981, he organized the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation, which provides grants to help poor families in Cincinnati become homeowners.