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Working Lives Oral History Project

Interview with Fred Shuttlesworth

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In this interview, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth discusses his early life and his eventual role in the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the interview, Shuttlesworth speaks about the role of his religious faith played in his life and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1956 Alabama outlawed the NAACP. Shuttlesworth recounts holding a meeting when a deputy approached with a pistol and demanded that that no other NAACP meetings be held. Knowing that he would probably be arrested, Shuttlesworth called a mass meeting at Sardis Baptist Church in Birmingham. There were 600-700 attendees. During this meeting, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights was formed. This organization was formed to get around the law that prohibited NAACP meetings. Regular meetings continued to be held, with detectives sitting in. He also details his involvement with Bull Connor. Shuttlesworth consistently maintained that African-Americans be allowed to serve on the police force; this request eventually resulted in a confrontation with Connor at the Birmingham City Hall. In this interview, Shuttlesworth also describes the Klan's attempt on his life which he says did not slow down his efforts; his religious faith gave him strength to continue. Shortly after this event, he organized a bus ride in Birmingham, where blacks sat with whites. Shuttlesworth recounts being beaten for trying to enroll his children in Phillips High School. He also describes the constant harassment from the local police department. He recalls sitting in the white section of an Atlanta train station and the mob scene that resulted from this action. In 1958, Shuttlesworth's church was bombed; the person behind this incident was brought trail 22 years later and sentenced to 10 years in jail. He recalls that very few white people were involved in the movement. Shuttlesworth believes that most were afraid to speak up and simply accepted the law. He added that they were also afraid of Bull Connor and afraid of being ostracized. He briefly mentions the involvement of other Civil Rights leaders in Birmingham. Shuttlesworth's organization invited Martin Luther King Jr. to Birmingham. Shuttlesworth says: we invited him because Birmingham was the citadel of segregation. Shuttlesworth sees the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement as the opening wedge for other movements, like the peace movement.
Shuttlesworth, Fred
Sillman, Marcie
Date Created
Physical Description
2 audio cassettes
Physical Description
2 transcripts
United States--Alabama--Jefferson County--Birmingham
Shuttlesworth, Fred -- Interviews
Document Types
sound recording-nonmusical


William Stanley Hoole Special Collections Library
Repository Collection
Archive of American Minority Cultures

Part of

Online Repository
The University of Alabama Libraries Digital Collections
Digital Collection
Working Lives Oral History Project

Additional Information

Digitization Funding
The digitization of this collection was funded by a gift from EBSCO Industries.
Access Conditions
  • Collection may be protected under Title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Law.
  • To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library.
EBSCO Industries
The University of Alabama Libraries (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)