Interview with Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth


Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth:

In this way, I became known working with the communities and so forth. And in '54, I believe, the biggest thing blacks had at that time was Emancipation Day. Since I had become very active in Birmingham and Jackson County and working with the civic groups and clubs, I addressed this NAACP, Emancipation Day Progress. We had—as I recall that's one of the biggest crowds at 16th Street Church, that's the church where the children were later bombed and killed. And, so I was elected NAACP Membership Chairman. And this was the position I was served in when the injunction was served on NAACP in Alabama. But we were trying to get Negro policemen, not to arrest whites, but just to police Negro areas. And whites at this time ran a lot of jukes and dives in Negro areas. It was, it was a terrible situation. Black on black crime, white on black crime, it was, it was a situation where you felt the need to do something. Then the Supreme Court decision came in 1954 and I remember that that was almost like getting religion again. I was—I walked by the Federal Courthouse there in Birmingham, on 5th Avenue, and I saw the US Supreme Court outlaw segregation and I felt like now we have arrived. Now, you know, we're going to get somewhere. And most of us, I think felt, most blacks, thought that the time had come that we could be accepted in this main stream. It wasn't to be so. But I do know that, at that point, I think it instilled in people the will to do whatever was necessary in a right way, to go forward. I think the Supreme Court decision itself, as critical as that was, was one of the most crucial stepping points. In this you must remember the Supreme Court reversed its Dred Scott decision, and so that this decision was a projection forward. Of course it started nullification and interposition and so forth, and so on, and I think the biggest mistake was made there was that the court didn't really didn't take direct charge and go ahead and order desegregation, appoint a special master and set up the mechanics with which desegregation could've been accomplished without whites running out, without the South having three or four years to organize legally every low road block against progress. And, so we find ourselves never reaching our goals because we don't really move. The master goes we say.