February in the United States is Black History Month. In honor of that month, each day in February will feature an African-American saint from different periods of the Civil Rights Movements in America.
Fred Shuttlesworth, 1922 – 2011
Shuttlesworth understood what it meant to put his life on the line for justice. As a Baptist minister in Alabama, he served as the chairperson of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. When the state outlawed the NAACP, he formed the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights to carry on the work. On more than one occasion assassination attempts were made on his life: dynamite was placed under his bedroom window, he and his family were beaten, and another bomb was placed outside his church. Alongside Martin Luther King Jr., Shuttlesworth organized direct non-violent actions to protest segregation and was a key figure in the Freedom Rides.. He knew that privilege was never willingly given up, and so turned to confrontation, which he called “Project C”, to force the issue of civil rights and segregation. The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is named after him.
God of action, when injustice and prejudice stood in the way, you sent your servant Fred Shuttlesworth to directly confront and dismantle the barriers of segregation and racism. Give us the same courage in the face of opposition, that we too might directly challenge the injustice in our midst. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.
W. E. B. Du Bois, 1868 – 1963
Du Bois was one of the intellectual greats of the Civil Rights movement. Born a free black and descendant of a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, Du Bois attended college thanks to the generosity of neighbors and friends. He was the first African American to earn a doctoral degree from Harvard University. A strong supporter of full and equal civil rights for blacks, he clashed with the more tolerant and compromising Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. He organized the first Pan-African Conference and helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. A prolific and skilled writer, he fought with pen and spoken word against racism, lynchings, discrimination, and war.
God of clarity, you sent your servant W. E. B. Du Bois to pull back the curtain on discrimination and injustice and to fight for equality, not compromise, for all. May we too reject compromise that continues to enslave all of your children in the name of progress. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.