Students Danielle Procope ‘14 (left) and Halima Lucas ’13 (right) with civil rights activist Sephira Shuttlesworth.

Students Danielle Procope ‘14 (left) and Halima Lucas ’13 (right) with civil rights activist Sephira Shuttlesworth.

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An Afternoon with a Civil Rights Activist

Katie SweeneyMar 5, 2013

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was asleep in his bed on Christmas night in 1956 when Ku Klux Klan members detonated several sticks of dynamite outside his bedroom window.

Everything around him cratered, but Rev. Shuttlesworth walked away unharmed-and undeterred from his cause. The Birmingham, Ala., minister went on to play a leading role in the civil rights movement with his close colleague, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

His courage on that Christmas night was just one of many stories shared by his widow, Sephira Shuttlesworth, on her visit to Pacific Feb. 14. (Rev. Shuttlesworth died in 2011.) Mrs. Shuttlesworth spoke to students in Intro to Ethnic Studies, taught by Xiaojing Zhou, Ph.D., professor of English and director of the Ethnic Studies Program at Pacific.  

In addition to stories of her husband's struggles during the 1950s and 60s, she shared her own childhood memories as one of the first blacks to attend a previously segregated school in Tennessee. She encouraged students of all colors to continue the ongoing struggle for racial equality and justice.  

Along with her presentation, students Halima Lucas '13 and Danielle Procope '14 led an in-class workshop on the impact of the civil rights movement today and current challenges facing students of color in higher education, as well as the importance of giving more widespread recognition to African-American leaders in history, such as Rev. Shuttlesworth.  

Halima is a Communication major with minors in Film Studies and Ethnic Studies, and Danielle is majoring in English and Philosophy, with minors in Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies and Sociology.  

"Mrs. Shuttlesworth's visit was enlightening and inspiring," wrote Danielle and Halima after her visit. "Her unique life history and her own personal activism as a black woman in the South provided us with a greater zeal for activism and dedication to social justice. Her lifelong friendship with Rita Jacoby was touching and inspires us to continue strong interracial friendships as we work to support racial justice. "  

Rita Jacoby is a longtime friend of Mrs. Shuttlesworth. Special thanks go out to both Rita and Stewart Jacoby for helping to make this special visit possible.