Historic Bethel Baptist Church served as headquarters for the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), which applied both legal and nonviolent direct action against segregation. During that time, the church was pastored by Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, a leader of the Birmingham Civil Rights movement. Bethel Baptist was also a key location during the 1961 Freedom Ride, and was the designated point of contact for the group in Alabama. Shuttlesworth worked with other movement leadership and the Kennedy administration to strategize moving the rides forward.
The church and its parsonage were bombed three times during the height of the Civil Rights movement, including Christmas Day, 1956.