October 24, 2011 by staff
Fred Shuttlesworth, They grew up in an era full of hate when schools, jobs, lunch counters – even the bathrooms – they were closed.
So there was no way they would not personally say goodbye to the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the man whose unwavering moral strength and courage without fear helped bring down the “Whites Only” and “color” signs and other barriers that once rigidly limits his life.
“I can go where I could not go and do what I could do,” said 81-year-old Christine Jones of Corryville, Ohio, who was one of about four dozen residents who traveled to Cincinnati to Birmingham three days of commemoration services and celebrations of Shuttlesworth. “That’s a change of Reverend brought to my life. Many others also.”
One of those millions of people, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, simple and eloquently stressed the same points in a night of celebration on Sunday at the 16th Street Baptist Church, where in 1963 a bomb killed four young black girls KKK.
“Without him,” Holder said, “I would not.”
Rev. Shuttlesworth died October 5 in Birmingham. His funeral was held Monday in Birmingham and a monument of Cincinnati will be held Oct. 29 at the Greater New Light Baptist Church.
The civil rights icon touched and enriched their lives forever, they say, by forcing changes in half a century ago in Birmingham that first spread across Alabama, South America and last.
This is particularly true for people of a certain age, for whom legal segregation, Jim Crow laws and the fears and dashed hopes engendered were not just something to be read in a history book, but were painful experiences life.
Much has changed in a city where Shuttlesworth was beaten and arrested on several occasions attacked his family and his home and the church bombed in late 1950 and early 60′s, when the voice of fire and seemingly arrogant attitude toward their own security led him to be labeled “the man most feared by the racist South”, in a famous 1961 CBS documentary.
If there is a danger that must be faced, Shuttlesworth’s attitude was always “me first”, said the Rev. Thomas Wilder Jr., pastor of Bethel Baptist, which under Shuttlesworth became a beacon guiding the civil rights movement in their early days.
It was that leadership – in particular, a desire to express gratitude for her one last time – which led to many Cincinnatians to Birmingham.
“He opened many doors,” said 76-year-old Helen Caldwell of Pleasant Ridge, Michigan. “Honestly, I can not imagine what life might have been without Rev. Shuttlesworth.”
Growing up in Georgia, “the only work available to a black woman was home,” said Caldwell. He married and moved to Cincinnati in 1961, where more job opportunities further expanded thanks to the hard-won changes Shuttlesworth and others were winning.
“I can thank Rev. Shuttlesworth for many of the good things I had in my life,” said Caldwell.
That issue is very common among the thousands who have paid their respects to Shuttlesworth in recent days.
“Before Rev. Shuttlesworth, because of all the racism of the time, which was in our minds it would always be that way,” said Kay Barksdale Amberley Village, Ohio. “But he changed history. Changed America. And he changed his life by creating more options.”
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