By Elizabeth Rankin Fulcher
Living history was abound at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church on Friday evening, February 9, 2007 when Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, the dynamic, charismatic preacher and leader of the Civil Rights Crusade, came to speak with Rev. Johnny Youngblood, his congregation, the students of St. Paul’s Community Baptist Church and the newly elected officers and members of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Brooklyn Chapter.ÿ
Rev. Shuttlesworth was overcome by the warm and loving welcome he received including the glorious voices of the audience singing “Lift Every Voice.”ÿ After an introduction by Rev. Herbert Oliver, Rev. Shuttlesworth shared compelling anecdotes about his experiences during the lunch counter sit-ins, the bus boycott, the integration of schools, the freedom rides, the 1963 March on Washington, the bombing of his home and dealing with the racist attitude of Bull Connor who was, ironically at that time, the Commissioner of Public Safety.ÿÿ
Speaking compassionately, he told us that “after surviving the bombing of his home without a scratch he knew God had not forsaken him”.ÿ
In 1957, Rev. Shuttlesworth, along with Dr. King, Rev. Abernathy and Bayard Rustin, formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization committed to nonviolence in the struggle for civil rights. Indeed Rev. Shuttlesworth is the unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement and one of the last survivors to bear witness to the still-unextinguished flame that he helped light.
Besides meeting Rev. Shuttlesworth, most memorable to the writer was the gift Rev. Youngblood gave the childrenÿ – keeping them after school to meet and talk with Rev. Shuttlesworth.ÿ Although we have read about Rev. Shuttlesworth and how he endured beatings, bombings, threats to his family and frequent arrests and jailing and his rise to national prominence, it was awesome to actually be in the presence of “living history”. ÿ
Rev. Shuttlesworth was born in Alabama 85 years ago; today, he and his new bride make their home in Cincinnati, Ohio where, until his retirement in January 2006, he was pastor of The Greater New Light Baptist Church, the church he organized in 1966.ÿ ÿ
Visiting New York at the invitation of attorney Alton Maddox, Rev. Shuttlesworth also spoke before standing-room only audiences ranging from elders to elementary school students at the United African Movement and The House of the Lord Church, pastored by Reverend Herbert Daughtry.ÿ
* The SCLC, Brooklyn Chapter was founded in September 2006 by Rev. Johnny Youngblood, pastor of Mt. Pisgah and St. Paul’s Community Baptist Church andÿ Rev. R. K. Smith.ÿ Headquartered at Mt. Pisgah, the SCLC, Brooklyn Chapter is steadfastly committed to use non-violence in its work within the community.ÿ The Chapter has already conducted two non-violent workshops for its members lead by Dr. Bernard Lafayette with future workshops planned for the community.ÿ Contact the Brooklyn Chapter at 718/388-3900.
Elizabeth Rankin-Fulcher is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, New York.ÿ She serves as secretary to the Brooklyn Chapter of the SCLC and co-chairs The Black Women’s Leadership Caucus, Inc. whose mission is to preserve thelegacy of Harriet Ross Tubman.