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Book cover of A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

by Andrew M. Manis, Wayne Flynt (Editor), Edith Blumhofer

Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Pages: 576
Paperback
ISBN: 9780817311568






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Overview of A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

This first biography of Fred Shuttlesworth-winner of both the 2000 Lillian Smith Award and the 2001 James F. Sulzby Jr. Award-details the fascinating life of the controversial preacher who led integration efforts in Birmingham with the courage and fervor of a religious crusader.

When Fred Shuttlesworth suffered only a bump on the head in the 1956 bombing of his home, members of his church called it a miracle. Shuttlesworth took it as a sign that God would protect him on the mission that had made him a target that night. Standing in front of his demolished home, Shuttlesworth vigorously renewed his commitment to integrate Birmingham's buses, lunch counters, police force, and parks. The incident transformed him, in the eyes of Birmingham's blacks, from an up-and-coming young minister to a virtual folk hero and, in the view of white Birmingham, from obscurity to rabble-rouser extraordinaire.

From his 1956 founding of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights through the historic demonstrations of 1963, driven by a sense of divine mission, Shuttlesworth pressured Jim Crow restrictions in Birmingham with radically confrontational acts of courage. His intensive campaign pitted him against the staunchly segregationist police commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor and ultimately brought him to the side of Martin Luther King Jr. and to the inner chambers of the Kennedy White House.

First published in 1999, Andrew Manis's award-winning biography of "one of the nation's most courageous freedom fighters" demonstrates compellingly that Shuttleworth's brand of fiery, outspoken confrontation derived from his prophetic understanding of the pastoral role. Civil rights activism was tantamount to salvation in his understanding of the role of Christian minister.

Synopsis of A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

When Fred Shuttlesworth suffered only a bump on the head in the 1956 bombing of his home, members of his church called it a miracle. Shuttlesworth took it as a sign that God would protect him on the mission that had made him a target that night. Standing in front of his demolished home, Shuttlesworth vigorously renewed his commitment to integrate Birmingham's buses, lunch counters, police force, and parks. The incident transformed him, in the eyes of Birmingham blacks, from an up-and-coming young minister to a virtual folk hero and, in the view of white Birmingham, from obscurity to rabble-rouser extraordinaire. From his 1956 founding of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights through the historic demonstrations of 1963, driven by a sense of divine mission, Shuttlesworth pressured Jim Crow restrictions in Birmingham with radically confrontational acts of courage. Andrew M. Manis argues that, during a ministry that extended beyond Birmingham and into the 1990s, Shuttlesworth displayed in undiluted form the fiery, combative spirituality of African American religion. Throughout the book, Manis emphasizes Shuttlesworth's dual role as pastor and civil rights leader, stressing Shuttlesworth's understanding of his responsibility as a Christian minister as the driving force behind his civil rights activism.

Library Journal

In this intriguing work, the first full-scale biography of Birmingham's Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth ("perhaps the most unsung of the many heroes of the American civil rights movement"), religious historian Manis compellingly depicts a dual, combustible life. While providing insights into Shuttleworth's pastoral work and family life, he also offers a lengthy analysis of his subject's civil rights activities. He contends that Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference went to Birmingham on Shuttlesworth's direct invitation and that they owed their success there largely to Shuttlesworth's having organized a large and loyal cadre of demonstrators over seven years. It was Shuttlesworth's tenacity and courage, Manis suggests, that toppled Birmingham's virulent racism. Based largely on interviews with Shuttlesworth, this well-written and -researched book offers valuable new information and insights into a crucial era of Southern and African American history.--Edward G. McCormack, Univ. of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Lib., Long Beach Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

About the Author, Andrew M. Manis

Andrew M. Manis is Assistant Professor of History at Macon State College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Southern Civil Religions in Conflict: Civil Rights and the Culture Wars.

 

Reviews of A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

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Editorials

Library Journal

In this intriguing work, the first full-scale biography of Birmingham's Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth ("perhaps the most unsung of the many heroes of the American civil rights movement"), religious historian Manis compellingly depicts a dual, combustible life. While providing insights into Shuttleworth's pastoral work and family life, he also offers a lengthy analysis of his subject's civil rights activities. He contends that Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference went to Birmingham on Shuttlesworth's direct invitation and that they owed their success there largely to Shuttlesworth's having organized a large and loyal cadre of demonstrators over seven years. It was Shuttlesworth's tenacity and courage, Manis suggests, that toppled Birmingham's virulent racism. Based largely on interviews with Shuttlesworth, this well-written and -researched book offers valuable new information and insights into a crucial era of Southern and African American history.--Edward G. McCormack, Univ. of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Lib., Long Beach Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Booknews

In this first full-length biography of Birmingham civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth, Manis (liberal arts, Mercer University) emphasizes Shuttlesworth's multifaceted attacks on segregation, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s. Manis also argues that although Shuttlesworth worked for civil rights in numerous ways, his ministry as pastor was the driving force behind his fiery desire for equality. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Kirkus Reviews

An unsung hero of the civil rights movement takes center stage. Manis (Southern Civil Religions in Conflict, not reviewed), religion and southern studies editor at Mercer University Press in Macon, Ga., has written an exhaustive and compelling portrayal of Fred Shuttlesworth, the Birmingham minister who labored in the trenches for years, often risking his life for the greater good of all Alabama citizens. Shuttlesworth helped Martin Luther King with his Montgomery bus boycott and James Farmer with his freedom rides; he even supported sit-ins conducted by students on various southern college campuses in the 1960s. The group he founded, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), had been doing battle with Alabama authorities since the mid-1950s. But Shuttlesworth remained in the margins of the movement (and its histories) because of his brash style, his unpolished manner, and his strong, uncompromising will. Manis points out that King commanded the national stage while Shuttlesworth fought to integrate Birmingham's buses, lunch counters, police force, and parks. Some of the book's finest chapters examine the strategic battles and confrontations between Shuttlesworth and Birmingham police commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor, which come to a bloody conclusion in 1963, when King's forces finally join with the ACMHR after much prodding by Shuttlesworth. The author takes time out from the movement to cover his subject's preaching and home life. The latter is more often than not depicted as stormy, but this helps humanize Shuttlesworth. A good read for those who think Martin Luther King Jr. carried off the civil rights revolution by himself, as well as for those who know betterand seek more details about some of the other men and women involved. (24 b&w photos, not seen)

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