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Main > Politics & Religion > Ralph David Abernathy

Ralph David Abernathy, the son of a farmer, was born on March 11, 1926 in Lindon, Alabama. In 1948, he became an ordained Baptist minister.

Soon after graduating from Atlanta University in 1950 with an M.A. in sociology, Abernathy became the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. A few years later, he met Martin Luther King Jr., who was the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. Abernathy and King received their first opportunity to work together in 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus. It was Abernathy, King, and other local leader who were instrumental in organizing the Montgomery bus boycott. After a year of the boycott, it finally ended when the United States Supreme Court affirmed the U.S. District Court's ruling that segregation on buses was unconstitutional.

After the boycott, Abernathy and King continued to work together. In 1957, Abernathy, King, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Bayard Rustin founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which was created to organize nonviolent protest. King served as president and Abernathy served as secretary-treasurer. When King was assassinated in 1968, Abernathy became the president of the SCLC. He resigned in 1977, and served as a pastor of a Baptist church in Atlanta. Abernathy died on April 17, 1990.

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