Ralph Abernathy: A leader of the Civil Rights Movement

6 June 2017

Being a prominent leader during the Civil Rights movement was a perilous position to occupy. Very few people have the guts to make themselves the face of a movement, and even fewer succeed at it. Ralph Abernathy was an American Civil Rights activist who advocated equality alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and many others. Ralph Abernathy strived to help establish a more equal and welcoming America for all. Abernathy went on a Journey to help change the way America is today and help create a more equal America for all, regardless of race or ethnicity.

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Ralph Abernathy began gaining the skills to be a leader at a young age, and exemplified those skills by leading multiple demonstrations. Ralph Abernathy was born on March 11, 1926, in Linden, Alabama. He was born into a time of social inequality and race segregation. Abernathy served in the United States Army during WWII and served as a platoon Sergeant, leading his own group of soldiers. After being discharged from the Army, he enrolled at Alabama State University (ASU).

While attending ASU he began to notice how the university was segregated. He gained fame when he started his first demonstrations, protesting the lack of heat and hot water in his dormitory and the dreadful food served in the cafeteria. Later, in 1951, he was called to the Civil Rights Movement when he became the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. As pastor he mentored Martin Luther King Jr. as a minister of a nearby church. They formed a close friendship that would carry on for the rest of their lives.

Abernathy developed a leadership role from the start of his life which helped lead im into his role as one of the biggest Civil Rights advocates America had ever had. Abernathy organized, created, and lead multiple different protest and organizations to help the Civil Rights Movement. One of The biggest protests he organized was the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Abernathy organized it with the help of Martin Luther King Jr. and together they lead the biggest boycott of the whole Movement. It was decided that black people in Montgomery would refuse to use the buses until passengers were completely integrated” (Simkin). This protest was his call to action and one of his main contributions to the movement. Another one of Abernathys main contributions to the Civil Rights Movement was that he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Martin Luther King Jr. was president of the organization and Abernathy was secretary treasurer. They worked together in helping to desegregate America and teaching people how to stand up for themselves and protest non- violently.

The biggest trial that Abernathy went through was when is church was “sieged” by white supremacists. 1,500 men and woman were surrounded and Abernathy was willing to give himself up to save the innocent people stuck in the church. Ultimately, he did not end up sacrificing himself, but this was also a test of his character. “Over the next few years Abernathy was arrested nineteen times” (Simkin). Abernathy proved himself to be a dedicated, powerful, and resourceful leader. As the Civil Rights Movement progressed, Abernathy’s role became a less dire.

When Martin Luther King Jr. as assassinated, Abernathy took over the role as president ot the S LC Ralph Abernathy led “daily demonstrations in May and June 1968, Just a month after King’s assassination” (Kirkland). Some of the important last demonstrations he led were the: Poor Peoples March in Washington D. C. in May, 1968, Atlanta sanitation workers strike in 1968, and lastly the Charleston Hospital workers strike in 1969. Abernathy retired his position as president of the SCLC in 1977. He then ran for a spot in the Georgia Congressional Seat.

He was nsuccessful in the running yet continued advocating peace until his retirement. Abernathy’s Journey came to an end and he retired his title as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. To conclude, Ralph Abernathy was a dedicated Civil Rights Activist who advocated equality and Justice for all. Alongside many others, he accomplished impressive feats that once seemed unreachable. He went on a Journey towards helping America become a more equal country. He was tested to his limits and proved himself to be a worthy, dedicated, and powerful leader.

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