Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Abernathy, one of the greatest African American civil rights leaders of the twentieth century, led the Montgomery bus boycott with Martin Luther King, Jr., and Edward Nixon, helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and organized the Poor People’s Campaign after King’s assassination.
Ralph David Abernathy was born in Linden, Alabama, the son of William L. Abernathy and Louivery (Bell) Abernathy. He was one of twelve children in the Abernathy family and the grandson of a slave. Abernathy’s early years were spent on the family farm, where he learned hard work and dedication from his father. William was an influential figure in his son’s life. As the leader in the rural community of Linden, William served on the school board and was the first African American to serve on a jury in the county, according to later interviews given by his son. Abernathy recalled that his father was a tall, handsome man. Abernathy himself grew into a stocky man of 5 feet 8 inches, weighing about 185 pounds.
Abernathy served overseas in the United States Army during World War II. This experience provided him with firsthand knowledge of segregation, since black soldiers were routinely treated as second-class citizens. However, his time in the Army also gave him access to the G.I. Bill. Through the money provided for education by the government, Abernathy was able to earn a...
(The entire section is 1902 words.)
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