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Black Activist - Ralph Abernathy

Updated on February 13, 2012

Ralph Abernathy was born March 11, 1926 in Linden, Alabama and died April 17, 1990 in Atlanta, Georgia. Abernathy was a pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.While a pastor Abernathy met and befriended another pastor at a different Baptist church, Martin Luther King, Jr. Abernathy and King became quick friends and stayed best of friends until King’s death. Abernathy and King worked closely together for almost 15 years fighting for the rights of African Americans.Abernathy endured a great deal throughout his life and still continued to fight for equality, never wavering in the struggle for civil rights no matter the danger he was faced with.

Preacher

Ralph Abernathy was raised on a farm in rural Alabama. Abernathy earned a Bachelor’s degree from Alabama State University and a Master’s degree from Atlanta University.Abernathy became ordained as a Baptist minister and led the First Baptist Church in Montgomery.Abernathy met King a few years later when King became pastor of another Baptist church in Montgomery.As a pastor Abernathy was able to get assistance from his congregation in helping to fight inequality. This was particularly true with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Abernathy spread the word through his congregation and they in turn spread the word throughout the city about the boycott. Word of mouth spread like wildfire throughout the city. During the civil rights movement Abernathy took a break from being a pastor so that he could work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After resigning from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference later on in life, Abernathy returned to his role as pastor in a Baptist church in Atlanta.

Activist

Ralph Abernathy was very active as an activist. Abernathy was Martin Luther King Jr.’s chief aide and closest friend. Together, Abernathy and King organized the bus boycott of the Montgomery bus system. The Montgomery boycott marked the beginning of the civil rights movement. A few years later Abernathy and King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference together. Abernathy and King worked hard to desegregate America in the years that followed; they worked together until the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Abernathy continued with the struggle against segregation after King’s assassination for almost 10 years and then Abernathy resigned from his position with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and went back to being a pastor.

Ralph Abernathy devoted his most of his life to the struggle for equality. For almost 15 years Abernathy struggled against the brutality that he experienced while fighting against segregation and discrimination. Abernathy endured the bombings of his church, his home and King’s home, beatings and violence by state troopers and police officers, death threats against himself and his family and the murders of colleagues and innocent bystanders and volunteers. Abernathy and King were terrorized daily but they never backed down from their beliefs and their struggle. Together they fought equality and justice and nothing could destroy their beliefs and desires or their friendship. Ralph Abernathy received numerous accolades and awards for his work in the civil rights movement. Abernathy should be remembered as great person he was.

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