Timeline

1956

December 25th, 1956

Civil Rights Leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth's Home Bombed by KKK

On December 25, 1956, Ku Klux Klan members bombed the Birmingham, Alabama, home of civil rights activist Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. Shuttlesworth was home at the time of the bombing with his family and two members of Bethel Baptist Church, where he served as pastor. The 16-stick dynamite blast destroyed the home and caused damage to Shuttlesworth’s church next door but no one inside the home suffered serious injury. White supremacists would attempt to murder Shuttlesworth four more times in the next seven years, including one 1957 incident in which a white mob brutally beat Shuttlesworth with chains and bats and stabbed his wife after the couple attempted to enroll their daughters in an all-white high school.

Shuttlesworth became a popular target of white supremacists in the early 1950s after assuming leadership of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama. As founder and president of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, Shuttlesworth organized and participated in numerous protests and boycotts challenging Jim Crow customs and policies in Birmingham and across the South.

A day before the Christmas bombing, Shuttlesworth had called upon local African Americans to desegregate the city buses starting on December 26. Undeterred by the Klan’s assassination attempt, Shuttlesworth proceeded as planned with the December 26 protest rides. Shuttlesworth was involved in nearly every pivotal civil rights event of the 1960s, including the 1961 Freedom Rides and the Birmingham Children’s Crusade in May 1963. His tireless activism in the face of violent opposition led Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to describe him as “the most courageous civil rights fighter in the South.”