Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

What Fred Shuttlesworth’s Legacy Means for the Next Generation of Leaders

Oct 09, 2011

In life, there are some people that simply speak of progress, and then there are the select few that not only practice what they preach, but truly sacrifice personal gain and dedicate their entire being to the cause of justice. The late Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was one of those rare remarkable beings who not only suffered physical and emotional attacks by those who stood opposed to equality, but he was a man who greatly inspired an entire movement for change. And now, the next generation of thinkers, activists, artists, attorneys, educators, advocates and all those pushing for advancement can once again look to the life of Rev. Shuttlesworth as they continue the good fight.

This week, members of Congress took the floor and delivered speeches upon speeches as they commemorated the life and legacy of Rev. Shuttlesworth. Upon news of his passing, President Obama stated in part: "He (Shuttlesworth) was a testament to the strength of the human spirit. And today we stand on his shoulders, and the shoulders of all those who marched and sat and lifted their voices to help perfect our union... America owes Rev. Shuttlesworth a debt of gratitude."

It was during the 1950s in segregated Alabama that Rev. Shuttlesworth began his push for integration on all levels of society. Performing acts of civil disobedience wherever necessary -- like purposefully sitting in all-white sections of parks, train stations and more -- he faced every form of police intimidation, arrests, beatings and death threats. His home and church were bombed, he was struck with brass knuckles and he routinely faced Klansmen ready to silence him. Rev. Shuttlesworth formed the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and also established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

It was Rev. Shuttlesworth who took his battle for equality to the highest levels by seeking federal protection for freedom riders and urged Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to bring the civil rights movement to Birmingham. Several years later, Rev. Shuttlesworth took his fight to Cincinnati as well. His selfless life proved that a single person could in fact help spark a national movement that would galvanize our greatest leaders and our greatest advancement for social change.

As the Black community and other historically disenfranchised groups continue to benefit from the sacrifice and actions of Rev. Shuttlesworth, we understand that much work remains. As the next generation picks up the mantel to highlight today's inequities and injustices, and peacefully advocates for fair housing, employment, education and more, let us look to the will and dedication of Rev. Shuttlesworth. He inspired many decades ago; let his life's work continue to motivate us to the next level.