Timeline

1958

June 29th, 1958

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth's Bethel Street Baptist Church Bombed

Early in the morning of Sunday, June 29, 1958, a bomb exploded outside Bethel Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, located on the north side of town in one of the segregated city's African American neighborhoods. The church's pastor, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, was a civil rights activist working to eliminate segregation in Birmingham.

The church had been bombed before, on December 25, 1956, and since that date several volunteers had kept watch over the neighborhood every night. Around 1:30 a.m., Will Hall, who was on watch that night, was alerted to smoke coming from the church. He discovered a paint can containing dynamite near the church wall and carried it into the street before taking cover as it exploded.

The can contained between fifteen and twenty sticks of dynamite. The blast blew a two-foot hole in the street and broke the windows of houses in the vicinity as well as the stained glass windows of the church, which were still being repaired from the previous bombing. Police said there were few clues as to the culprit's identity, but a passerby reported seeing a car full of white men pass by shortly before the bomb was discovered. Rev. Shuttlesworth praised Mr. Hall for his brave actions, saying that if he had not moved the dynamite, it probably would have destroyed the entire church. "This shows that America has a long way to go before it can try be called democratic," he said.