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To Fred L. Shuttlesworth

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: April 4, 1960

Location: Atlanta, Ga.?

Genre: Letter

Topic: Student movements


After Shuttlesworth's second arrest during the student sit-ins in Birmingham, King pledges SCLC's support and praises the minister's “epic making career.” 1

rev fred shuttlesworth
3191 north 29th ave

have just learned of your recent arrest on trumped up charges by city officials of birmingham you have the absolute support of the southern christian leadership [strikeout illegible] conference as you face this hour.2 we are always inspirr inspired by your courageous witness, and your willingness to suffer in this righteous cause. you' ve transformed the jail from a dungeon of shame into a haven of freedom and a badge of honor. i know that you will face this situation with the same courage that has always guided your epic making career continue your great work with the conviction ofthat unearned suffering is redemption

(given by mrs [maude] ballou)

martin luther king jr

1. On 31 March, the first day of a student sit-in campaign that resulted in ten arrests, Birmingham police also arrested Shuttleworth for giving false information regarding an alleged incident of police brutality. Two days later he was arrested for vagrancy as well as aiding and abetting civil disobedience. Shuttleworth was found guilty on both charges on 4 April; his conviction was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 (Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, 373 U.S. 262; "Shuttleworth Charged with False Information," Birmingham World, 6 April 1960; and "Youths Given $100 Fines and 180 Days in Jail Each," Birmingham World, 6 April 1960; see also Shuttleworth to William P. Rogers, 4 April 1960).

2. A week after this telegram was sent, King and SCLC associates Joseph Lowery, Kelly Miller Smith, C. K. Steele, and Ralph Abernathy wrote Attorney General William P. Rogers urging an immediate investigation of Shuttlesworth's arrests: "Regard for legal rights of Negroes have sunken to a new low even for Birmingham when a full time pastor of a church can be jailed held incommunicado for hours and charged with vagrancy to prevent him from securing early bail" (King et al. to Rogers, 11 April 1960). Acting Assistant Attorney General Joseph Ryan replied on 25 April and maintained that the situation "is presently receiving this Department's careful attention."

Source: MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

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