American Civil Rights Theorist Who Changed US History


Hate and racism spread like a wildfire, engulfing and surrounding the south. Instead of cower in fear many brave people across the nation stood up to fight the racial injustices. Many protests and speeches started in the eye of the storm, the south. The key tools activist used were, direct action, rhetorical devices, nonviolent protests, speeches, and other demonstrations. These powerful ideas and beliefs were what helped turn the tide and helped bring order and equality to the people.

Fred Shuttleworth was a key figure that often got overlooked, he worked alongside Dr. King to form social groups to put an end to segregation. American civil rights theorist Shuttleworth started his career by becoming minister at the Bethel Baptist church in Birmingham. After he took this position and got deeply involved in his community and began to call for reform. He was outraged how him and many other African Americans were treated. In response to this Shuttleworth helped to form the SCLC, the Southern Christian Leadership Council. This was a prime example of how Shuttleworth was able to use action to bring about change in his community. Shuttleworth worked alongside with Martin Luther King Jr to create the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Shuttleworth quickly became a household name of “the big three”. ”After the desegregation of Montgomery busses due to the citywide boycott inspired by Rosa Parks, Shuttlesworth was organizing efforts in his city to implement bus desegregation as well when his residence was bombed on Christmas, with the pastor inside” (A&E Television Networks). One way to interpret this is that after facing adversary, threats, violence, he still fought for what is right, and what he believed in. This further displays how Shuttleworth worked on high profile cases using direct action to change the community and inspire others along the way.

American civil rights institute

Although he helped and inspired many, his opposers ceased to change, and rather became inferierrated and tried to hurt him and his family. Instead of turning back and throwing in the white flag, he pursued civil rights even more powerfully. After having his daughter come to an all white school, him and his wife were brutally beaten in a near death experience. After this frightening experience, he did not turn back, but rather worked even harder to bring rights to the people of Alabama and Mississippi. He worked with the SCLC to help get more Afican Americans to vote. He had people called “freedom riders” travel through Mississippi to campaign for civil rights, but sadly many did not return because many of the white locals attacked them to prevent change. Shuttleworth came up with a brilliant idea of how to protect the freedom riders.” After the May 14, 1961, attacks on the Freedom Riders, Shuttlesworth provided refuge for the activists, with outreach made to Attorney General Robert Kennedy for assistance” (A&E Television Networks). Together Robert Kennedy and Shuttleworth found local residents to welcome the freedom riders to help shelter them so they can still campaign for freedom and rights. This was a big change that helped get many African Americans to vote which ultimately changed the tide in local elections. Shuttleworth helped bind together the community and used what he called direct actions to attack the injustices in his community. Later on he developed more churches and helped to desegregate southern states alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr

Martin Luther King Jr was one of the most famous and one of the most powerful civil rights leaders of the time who used direct action to change the world. Dr. King started out small and joined in on peaceful protests to promote change, it was there when Dr. King decided to use non violence to bring out change. Dr. King became greatly inspired and decided to pursue civil rights, and got the proper degrees including a PhD. One of Dr. King’s first cases he worked on was the Rosa Parks case. He helped to organize a bus boycott that would greatly affect the bussing systems profit. “On the night that Parks was arrested, E.D. Nixon, head of the local NAACP chapter met with King and other local civil rights leaders to plan a Montgomery bus boycott. King was elected to lead the boycott because he was young, well-trained with solid family connections and had professional standing. But he was also new to the community and had few enemies, so it was felt he would have strong credibility with the black community” (A&E Television Networks). Dr. King was virtually untouchable because he was so new and swift. Dr. King went on to later fight for civil rights by co-founding the SCLC organization. Martin Luther King was the founder of the movement and the prominent author of many civil rights movement books.

One word that is commonly heard when talking about Dr. King or civil rights is, direct action. Direct action is when public figures such as civil rights activists use public platforms to express their opinions and/or ideas. After a peaceful protest, Dr. King was arrested and put in the Birmingham jail where he wrote one of the most famous letters of all time. In this letter he wrote, Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a non violent direct action program if such were deemed necessary” (Dr. King). Many students are now asking civil rights movement capitalized, I can’t even imagine how many lives are behind this phrase. When addressing the white moderate of the town, he made it clear he would attack and expose their beliefs of segregation. Dr. King used many rhetorical devices such as parallelism, charged language, and repetition. These devices were used to tap into the audiences emotions to sway them towards his size, this is what made Dr. Kings’ speeches and messages so powerful and effective. Dr. King was known as the most iconic civil rights activist because of his idea of direct action and his powerful diction that instantly persuaded audience.

James Meredith stood up for his rights and became a top grossing author sharing his experiences to the public. Meredith is most popular for applying to an all white college and battling the board of education.Since Brown vs the Board of Education ruled that public schools cannot be segregated, Meredith should be accepted. It turned out that he was initially accepted, but later rejected after they found out he was African American which violates his rights. This case went all the way to the Supreme court, where it was won by James Meredith. This made him the first African American to attend a university. He wrote a book about his time in college and it became very popular giving people a look at the injustice he faced. “That June, he was in Memphis on a solo march through the South to encourage African American voters when he was shot and wounded by a white unemployed hardware clerk named Aubrey James Norvell, who was apprehended and sentenced to five years in prison. (He would ultimately serve just 18 months.) “(A&E Television Networks). This shocked and scared millions, but luckily he recovered and talked about his recovery to the public. He saw this as just a set back and did not quit public speaking and demonstration.

James Meredith is also known for his political work and stance. Later he got into politics where he ran for the Senate, but lost. He was discouraged because the elected senate did not believe in civil rights, but he did not give up on politics. James also was very humble after having a brush with death he felt safe and reassured the public that the have eachothers back. One example, “I noticed in the hallway a black janitor and I wondered why he was standing there. And he had a mop under his arm. And as I passed him, he turned his body, twisted his body, and touched me with the mop handle. Now this delivered a message and the message was clear: We are looking after you while you are here” (James Meredith). This gave the community a sense of brotherhood and security they lacked before. His powerful words acted as an example for others to make sure they follow these to better themselves and their community.


You can use our history article in your history paper outline if you are a student. Throughout history many historic civil rights activists put there stamp on our world. Some prime examples were James Meredith, Fred Shuttleworth, and Martin Luther King Jr. However some people might overlook James Meridith and Fred Shuttleworth, but I think they were key revolutionary activists who changed the tide of civil rights by using the newly found direct action. Their words inspired millions across the world, using powerful rhetorical devices to harness the audience.