February 1, 2024
Birmingham, AL – The story of an unknown freedom fighter who started a movement that changed the world takes the national stage this month. NATAS Southeast Regional Emmy-nominee SHUTTLESWORTH, featuring never-before-seen images and archival footage, is airing on local PBS stations across the country to celebrate Black history month.
The feature-length documentary explores the life and legacy of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, one of the most fearless leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, through the lens of Birmingham’s industrial and exploitative past. Watch SHUTTLESWORTH on Alabama Public Television Thursday, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. or stream it now on the PBS app.
“Few people in Birmingham truly understand the role that our homegrown hero had in not just reshaping our city but the entire country. Birmingham is known around the world for the horrific violence that happened here, but it should also be known for determination and fearlessness of the people here that stood up to its hate. All of that is personified in Rev. Shuttlesworth,” SHUTTLESWORTH director J. Whitson said.
Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was raised in the crucible of segregated Birmingham. When he emerged unharmed after the KKK planted a bomb underneath his bed, he believed he was saved by God to lead a movement.
“In Mark 6:4, the Bible [New Life Version] says, Jesus said to them, ‘One who speaks for God is respected everywhere but in his own country and among his own family and in his own house.’ I think it’s been long enough that we have not honored Reverend Shuttlesworth in a way that is reflective of his sacrifice,” co-producer T. Marie King said. “The way God used him to change the city of Birmingham and the ripple effects beyond the borders of Alabama should be honored. He earned it. It’s humbling to be a part of this project as a visual thank you and amen to his courageous charge to see a city become better than what it was.”
SHUTTLESWORTH features interviews with a wide range of authors, experts, family members and community and political leaders.
“We incorporated never-before-seen images and archival footage into this project to create a broader sense of who Shuttlesworth was and all the obstacles and life threatening incidents that he experienced in Birmingham at the hands of the KKK and Bull Connor [the former Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety],” Whitson added.
Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth’s fearless activism not only ended legal segregation but directly led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 that inspired freedom movements around the world.
“National distribution means that more and more people are going to be aware of the role that Shuttlesworth played in creating the momentum that gave us the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act,” Whitson said.
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About the Filmmakers
Marie King is a racial justice and equity activist and trainer with a background in film and media, as well as experience in content creation, non-profit and technology. Over the past fifteen years, she has worked with communities across the nation to assist in perspective shifting,creating equitable spaces and deepening understanding of individuals to spark change. Birmingham native and lifelong resident J. Whitson is an Emmy-award winning Senior Producer at Alabama Public Television. Over his 18-year career, he has worked on several award-winning documentaries and arts and educational programs, including APT’s music series We Have Signal.
About the Donors
SHUTTLESWORTH was made possible by the generous support of Alabama Humanities Alliance, Alabama Power Foundation, Medical Properties Trust, The Comer Foundation, Robert R. Meyer Foundation, Mike & Gillian Goodrich Foundation and Alabama Civil Rights Trail.
About Alabama Public Television
Alabama Public Television is a center of discovery for people of all ages, motivating children to learn, empowering students and teachers to succeed, and providing a lifelong path to knowledge through our unique programs and services. APT’s award-winning broadcast and digital productions share the news and celebrate the life and culture of Alabama with all its citizens. Learn something new every day at aptv.org.