As soon as I heard the news that Fred Shutlesworth had passed away, I knew that I needed to talk to Andrew M. Manis. Andrew spent 10 years writing, arguably, the definitive biography on the late Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, ” A Fire That You Can’t Hold” If you flip to the back jacket of the book, you will see a Caucasian face smiling back at you. Andrew is a self described “southern white boy” with a very interesting story to tell. He was born in Brighmingham, Alabama in 1958. During our conversation he shares some of his earliest memories of Shuttlesworth and the racially turbulent civil rights times of his youth. He also spent 75 hours interviewing Shuttlesworth for his book. So has he shares his “stories” of Shuttlesworth, he does so with a certain authority that can only be gained from research and or access to the man himself.
I would be lying if I said that going into the interview, that I had a deep knowledge of the history and accomplishments of the civil rights icon. But talking with people since his death, I quickly realized that I was not alone. If you ask most Hip-Hop generationers from Cincinnati about Fred Shuttlesworth, they will quickly identify him with the civil rights movement-some may even mention a bombing. But if you press for specific sacrifices or moments-you will hear crickets. Here are some of the questions that were answered during our conversation:
Why should Fred Shuttlesworth be remembered? How closely did he work with King? Why is Shuttlesworth more important to the civil rights movement than Rosa Parks? Why did whites in 1950’s and 60’s Birmingham frequently curse when talking about Fred Shuttlesworth? What did the members of his church say when he emerged from his home unscathed after it was destroyed by a bomb? To put it simply, Fred Shuttlesworth was walking tall at a time when a Blackman with a stiff spine was an invitation for a lynching. Listen to my conversation with Andrew M. Manis below: