Martin Luther King Jr. (left), Fred Shuttlesworth (center) and Ralph Abernathy (right), three pivotal leaders of the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s, hold a press conference in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.
All were Baptist ministers who led churches in Alabama during the early days of the civil rights movement. In the United States, black churches provided leadership to their communities; the leaders headed the civil rights movement as well.
“We never got the kind of leadership from politicians that the movement required,” said King’s chief of staff, Wyatt Tee Walker Sr. He called the primacy of Baptist ministers in the movement “predictable.” (© AP Images)