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*This date marks the birth of Ralph Abernathy in 1926. He was a Black minister and civil rights leader.
Born in Linden, Alabama, Ralph David Abernathy was ordained in 1948 and received a B.S. degree in mathematics from Alabama State College in 1950. He then received an M.A. degree in sociology from Atlanta University in 1951. Later that year, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Together with the American clergyman and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., he founded the Montgomery Improvement Association in 1955 and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, organizations devoted to achieving equality for Blacks in the United States.
In 1961, Abernathy became pastor of the West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Frequently jailed with King for acts of civil disobedience, Abernathy was King’s closest associate during the civil rights campaigns of the late 1950s and early ‘60s. When King was assassinated in April 1968, Abernathy succeeded him as president of SCLC.
As such, he led a march in support of a strike by Memphis, Tennessee, sanitation workers on April 8, 1968, and led the Poor Peoples Campaign march and encampment in Washington, D.C., in May 1968. He remained president of SCLC until 1977.
His autobiography, “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down,” appeared in 1989. Ralph Abernathy died on April 17th, 1990, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Black Heroes of The Twentieth Century
Edited by Jessie Carney Smith
Copyright 1998 Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI