Alabama NewsCenter — Setting the stage: what made 1963 a pivotal year in Birmingham’s history

| January 13, 2023 @ 10:00 am

American Civil Rights activist Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth stands outside the wreckage of his house, following an assassination attempt involving sixteen sticks of dynamite, Montgomery, Alabama, December 28, 1956. (Photo by Don Cravens/Getty Images)

By Mark Kelly
Alabama NewsCenter Staff

This story is part of a series of articles, “Bending Toward Justice,” focusing on the 60th anniversary of events that took place in Birmingham during 1963 that changed the face of the city, and the world, in the ongoing struggle for equality and human rights. The series name is a reference to a quote by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The series will continue through 2023.

In May 1962, the executive committee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) met in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Established in 1957 with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as its president, the SCLC was the lead organization for carrying out the campaign of direct, nonviolent action aimed at ending racial segregation in the South.

Among those in attendance was the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, pastor of Birmingham’s Bethel Baptist Church. One of the group of ministers who had founded the SCLC, Shuttlesworth, through his Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), was the undisputed leader of the civil rights movement in what had been described as America’s most segregated city. He arrived in Chattanooga on a mission: to convince King to lead a major demonstration campaign in Birmingham.

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