The news I read or saw lately has discussed the passing of Steve Jobs (1955-2011), a great inventor and business man of our time. I wrote a blog entry weeks ago talking about how creative and useful many of his devices are which his imagination helped create. I don’t want to diminish his importance however I want to comment on the passing of someone who I believe has done more for humanity than mere invention or savvy business strategy. His passing was a link to our nation’s past and because of him hopefully a continued better future.
Reverend Fred Lee Shuttlesworth (1922-2011) passed away the same day as Steve Jobs. His life’s work wasn’t toiling as an industrial giant, it was spent struggling against hatred, segregation and violence to people who were born with darker color skin. Perhaps because he wasn’t a great speaker as his contemporary, Martin Luther King Jr., and that he had his own set of personal problems, he may have gone unnoticed by many. His death is one of our last links to the early civil rights movement. Remarkable when you understand how violent a period it was, a period of one-sided violence committed against people who came into this world just as I, without choice of color or where we were born.
On Christmas day 1956, persons unknown tried to kill Shuttlesworth by placing sixteen sticks of dynamite under his bedroom window. Shuttlesworth miraculously escaped unharmed even though his house was heavily damaged. A police officer told Shuttlesworth as he came out of his home, “If I were you I’d get out-of-town as quick as I could”. Shuttlesworth told him to tell the KKK that he was not leaving and “I wasn’t saved to run.” This wasn’t a onetime incident in his life because he refused to accept segregation and being treated as a second class citizen in a country where it’s founding documents stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Other retaliatory attacks against Rev. Shuttlesworth and his family occurred such as this one; Shuttlesworth and his wife tried to enroll their children in a previously all-white public school in Birmingham in 1957, a mob of Klansmen attacked them. His assailants beat him with chains and brass knuckles in the street while his wife was stabbed. Shuttlesworth lost consciousness however he was carried and driven safely away. By his own count, Shuttlesworth had been bombed twice, beaten into unconsciousness and jailed more than 35 times. Shuttlesworth was at the front of every attempt to desegregate Birmingham through the late 1950s and early 1960s despite a violent streak that led some to call it “Bombingham.”
How any person could remain committed to non-violence and continue his relentless push toward social justice is a testament to his courage and his character.
It may be hard to imagine what the world would have been like without Steve Jobs, more over what would it have been like without the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth?