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Abernathy, Ralph - Timeline Biography

Time Period

03-11-1926 - 04-17-1990

Description

Civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest friend, was a champion for equality throughout his life. Born in Alabama in 1926, his father was a farmer and his grandfather had been a slave. Abernathy became a Baptist minister in 1948 and four years later was named pastor of Montgomery’s First Baptist Church. It was there he teamed up with King to become a central figure in the Montgomery bus boycott. He was a freedom rider in the early 1960s and took over as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after King’s assassination in 1968. Abernathy continued in that post until 1977, when he was forced to resign over accusations of financial mismanagement. He continued to work as a pastor and to help improve economic opportunities for African Americans.

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Race/Ethnicity and Religion
Baptist Events and People

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Narrative

Ralph Abernathy -- veteran of World War II, college professor, and pastor -- was a leading light of the American civil rights movement. While pastor of the First Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama, one of the largest black churches in the country, Abernathy, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., led the local chapter of the NAACP in a boycott of the bus system to protest the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955. In retaliation, Abernathy's home was bombed in January 1957 along with several local churches.

Abernathy was Martin Luther King's best friend and withdrew with him from the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., to start the Progressive National Baptist Convention in 1961. He also was with King on the day he was assassinated and succeeded him as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In May 1968, Abernathy led the Poor Peoples' Campaign March on Washington and spent three weeks in jail for it. He was forced to resign from the SCLC almost a decade later in 1977 amid accusations of financial mismanagement.

Religious Groups

Baptist Family: Other ARDA Links
Baptist Family: Religious Family Tree

Events

National Baptist Convention
Progressive National Baptist Convention
Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Movements

Civil Rights Movement

Related Dictionary Terms

Baptist, Christianity, Christians, Church, King, Martin Luther (1929-1968), Minister, Pastor, Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Photographs

Ralph Abernathy portrait- Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-01262
Ralph Abernathy portrait- Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-01262

Ralph Abernathy and MLK Jail Cell- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-120208
Ralph Abernathy and MLK Jail Cell- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-120208

Additional Resources

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Web Source(s)

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ralph-David-Abernathy
Ralph Abernathy's Biography Entry

Web Page Contributor

Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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