Bethel Baptist Church, 3233 Twenty-ninth Avenue, North, Birmingham, Jefferson County, AL
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North, Birmingham, AL
Find maps of Birmingham, AL
Documentation compiled after 1933.
Survey number HABS AL-977
Unprocessed field note material exists for this structure (N784).
Building/structure dates: 1926 initial construction
Significance: Located in a black working class neighborhood, near coal mines and industrial plants, Bethel Baptist Church provided the leadership to sustain the fight for civil rights in Birmingham. From 1953 to 1961, the Rev. Fred Lee Shuttlesworth (b. 1922) pastored Bethel. The church served as headquarters and a frequent meeting place for the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), which Shuttlesworth founded in 1956. The Birmingham-based association of working class people, pastors and their 60 churches championed Birmingham's and the nation's fight for civil rights. Shuttlesworth and Bethel endured with courage and tenacity threats, beatings and three bombings. The first bomb destroyed the parsonage on Christmas Night, December 25, 1956. When Rev. Shuttlesworth emerged from the debris, unharmed, his leadership of "the Movement" was confirmed irrevocably. The church repaired its sanctuary and built a new parsonage. Shuttlesworth and ACMHR challenged segregation practices through direct action and legal challenges, organizing bus rides, sit in and boycotts and by bringing the Rev. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to Birmingham to support the massive joint ACMHR, SCLS demonstrations that turned the tide of public opinion against segregation, inspiring the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Bethel Baptist Church structure was built in 1926, during the pastorate of the Rev. Milton Sears, on land the congregation purchased in 1909. The architect, suppliers and builders remain undetermined. Originally, this red brick edifice was finished with elaborate stained glass windows, stone lintels and sills for windows, extensive interior trim, walnut pews, a baptismal pool and a steam plant for heating. A cornerstone lists church officers at the time of construction.
Shuttlesworth, Rev. Fred Lee
Alabama Christian Movment For Human Rights (ACMHR)
Sears, Rev. Milton
Slaughter, Carol, Field Team
Dennis, Christopher, Field Team
Howell, Brenda, Field Team
Jones, Bill, Field Team
Mitchell, Darrell, Field Team
Anderson, Richard K., Delineator
White, Marjorie L., Historian
Lowe, Jet, Photographer
Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)
1. EXTERIOR VIEW, FRONT (NORTH) FACADE
2. EXTERIOR VIEW WITH RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITY CONTEXT LOOKING EAST ALONG SOUTHSIDE OF 3200 BLOCK 29TH AVENUE NORTH
3. EXTERIOR VIEW WITH RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITY CONTEXT LOOKING EAST ALONG NORTHSIDE OF 3200 BLOCK OF 29TH AVENUE NORTH
4. EXTERIOR VIEW, FRONT (NORTH) FACADE
5. EXTERIOR VIEW, FRONT ENTRANCE ELEVATION
6. PERSPECTIVE VIEW, NORTH AND EASTERN ELEVATION
7. PERSPECTIVE VIEW, EAST AND NORTH ELEVATIONS
8. PERSPECTIVE VIEW, SOUTH AND EASTERN ELEVATION LOOKING TOWARD 'THE GUARD HOUSE'
9. EXTERIOR VIEW, EASTERN ELEVATION
10. EXTERIOR VIEW, WESTERN ELEVATION
11. INTERIOR VIEW, SANCTUARY, PULPIT, CHOIR STAND, ORGAN AND PIANO ON PLATFORM; MINISTER'S CHAIRSONE IN FRONT OF THE PULPIT FOR ONE WHO BRINGS THE MESSAGE
12. INTERIOR VIEW, SANCTUARY, LOOKING NORTH
13. INTERIOR VIEW, GENERAL ASSEMBLY ROOM, DOWNSTAIRS FROM SANCTUARY
14. INTERIOR VIEW, ADULT CLASSROOM
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