Thursday, April 15, 2004

Historic site invites rights pioneer

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

AVONDALE - The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who battled Bull Connor in Birmingham and marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will be the featured speaker at the grand opening of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kan.

The ceremony is May 17 - the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling that segregation in public schools was inherently unequal. More than 1,000 visitors are expected.

Shuttlesworth, 82, of Avondale, is the last of the civil rights movement's "Big Three," which included King and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy. He is best known for fighting to integrate public schools in Birmingham. He was once beaten for trying to enroll his children in an all-white school.

"It was a pretty easy decision to invite Reverend Shuttlesworth to be our speaker," said LaTonya Miller, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service. "When you look at the civil rights movement, you can't help but recognize his contributions."

Shuttlesworth could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Congress on Oct. 26, 1992, approved creation of the historic site. The 2-acre site consists of the newly renovated Monroe School, one of four segregated elementary schools that once served African-American children in Topeka. Exhibits detailing the history of the court case have been placed inside the school.

Shuttlesworth, pastor of Greater New Light Baptist Church in Avondale, headlines a list of regional and national dignitaries that includes NAACP President Julian Bond and Secretary of Education Rod Paige.

Shuttlesworth was a founding member and organizer of the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference and has served as both its secretary and vice president. Late last year, he was appointed to serve as interim president of the SCLC for a period of six to eight months.


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