Abernathy, Ralph David (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
In the long battle for CIVIL RIGHTS, few leaders have had as an important a role as Ralph David Abernathy. From the late 1950s until 1968, Abernathy was the right-hand man of MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. Together in 1957 they founded the SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE (SCLC), the organization chiefly responsible for the nonviolent protest movement whose gains over the next decade included major legal and social reforms for black Americans. Abernathy often shared a place next to King in meetings, marches, and jail, yet despite his considerable contributions to the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, he labored largely in King's shadow. Later becoming SCLC president, he watched the transformation of the movement as his influence weakened and his politics changed, until controversy ultimately divided him from its mainstream.
Born on March 11, 1926, in Marengo County, Alabama, Abernathy was the grandson of a slave. His family members were successful farmers, and his father's leadership in the county's black community inspired him. Upon graduating from Linden Academy, he served in the army in WORLD WAR II. He was ordained as a...
(The entire section is 728 words.)
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