Subseries 3.1
Ralph David Abernathy files, 1958-1968
Boxes 168 - 172

Biographical Note

Ralph David Abernathy (1926-1990) was born David Abernathy in Linden, Alabama. As a teenager, his sister nicknamed him "Ralph David" after an admired professor and the name stuck. He served in the Army during World War II, was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1948, and graduated from Alabama State University in 1950. He received a master's degree in sociology from Atlanta University in 1951 and went on to serve as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. A year later, he married Juanita Odesssa Jones, and it was during his time in Montgomery that he met and befriended Martin Luther King, Jr.

Abernathy and King marched and worked side by side throughout the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and were each among the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. Abernathy served the organization first as Secretary/Treasurer and then as Vice President at Large. As Vice President, he was handpicked by King to be successor to the presidency. Also as Vice President, Abernathy assumed a primary role in planning the Poor People's Campaign, with which he continued to be actively involved as president. After King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, Abernathy accepted the position of president of SCLC. In this role, Abernathy continued to speak on the necessity of voting rights and equal rights for all, but became much more vocal on the issues of poverty and labor. Efforts such as SCLC's involvement with the Charleston, South Carolina Hospital Worker's strike in 1969 reflect this shift. Abernathy resigned from SCLC in 1977 to run for Congress. Though he lost the race, he continued to be an active member and President Emeritus of the SCLC throughout the 1980s. Abernathy served as pastor of West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta from 1961 until his death in 1990. He published an autobiography, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, in 1989.

Scope and Content Note

The subseries consists of the records of SCLC Vice President at Large Ralph David Abernathy from 1958 through approximately April 4, 1968, including correspondence, office files, speaking engagement files and statements. The subseries contains records from Abernathy's tenure as Vice President (1965-1968), as well as a small amount of material from his time as Treasurer (1958-1965). Correspondence in the subseries is of a general nature, reflecting both Abernathy's responsibilities within SCLC and his activities outside the organization. Most significant in Abernathy's records are invitations and correspondence regarding his national and international speaking engagements. Additionally, the subseries has a significant amount of information regarding the 1965 national campaign to boycott the state of Alabama. See Subseries 2.2: Ralph David Abernathy files, for the records of Abernathy's presidency, including additional correspondence, writings, speeches, statements, administrative files, and subject files.

Arrangement Note

Correspondence, speeches and statements are arranged in chronological order. Office files are arranged in alphabetical order.

Correspondence
Box Folder Content
168 1 Undated
168 2 1963
168 3 1964 January-June
168 4 1964 July-December
168 5 1965 circa
168 6 1965 January
168 7 1965 February
168 8 1965 March
168 9 1965 April
168 10 1965 May
168 11 1965 June
168 12 1965 July
168 13 1965 August
169 1 1965 September
169 2 1965 October
169 3 1965 November
169 4 1965 December
169 5 1966 January-May
169 6 1966 June-December
169 7 1967
170 1 1968 January-March
170 2 Contribution thank you letters, 1965-1968
Office files
170 3 "Agreements Reached between Community and Government Negotiators Regarding New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry and Related Matters," 1968
170 4 American Friends Service Committee, "Report Prepared for National Advisory Commission on Rural Poverty," 1967
170 5 Board of Christian Education, 1963
170 6 Boycott of the State of Alabama, 1965 [1 of 2]
170 7 Boycott of the State of Alabama, 1965 [2 of 2]
170 8 Christmas mailing list, 1966
170 9 Circuit Court of Dallas County, Alabama protest order, 1965
170 10 Citizenship Education Project, circa 1964
170 11 Cleveland, Ohio leadership retreat report, 1967
170 12 Committee report on evangelism, circa 1963
170 13 Doe, Emmett T., court martial, 1968
170 14 Eastern Airlines, 1966
170 15 Executive staff, annual retreat, Birmingham, Alabama, 1964
170 16 Executive staff, meeting agendas and minutes, 1964-1966
170 17 Form letters, 1964
170 18 Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee, 1961
170 19 International Inter-religious Symposium on Peace, New Delhi, India, 1967-1968
171 1 Jackson, Esther M., "Prospectus for a National Developmental Conference on 'The Role of the Arts as a Constructive Agent of Social Change,'" 1966
171 2 Kanter, Adele, New York Office, 1962-1966
171 3 Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, 1965
171 4 King, Martin Luther (Reverend), Sr. 1965
171 5 Lists of ministers, undated
171 6 Manning, Benjamin, speech, undated
171 7 Memoranda, 1963-1967
171 8 Memoranda, 1968
171 9 Memphis, Tennessee, April 4, 1968
171 10 Movement poetry, undated
171 11 National Convention, 10th anniversary, 1967
171 12 Negro Heritage Library, circa 1966
171 13 New York Office, 1965-1966
171 14 News releases, 1967
171 15 Newsletters, 1965-1967
171 16 Office recommendations report, 1965
171 17 Operation Breadbasket, 1965-1967 [See also Subseries 10.4: Operation Breadbasket records]
171 18 Orangeburg Massacre, Orangeburg, South Carolina, 1968
171 19 Personnel, circa 1965-1968
171 20 Powell, Adam Clayton, 1967
171 21 Proposal to purchase a building on Auburn Avenue, circa 1965
171 22 "Remarks by Attorney Orzell Billingsley, Jr., Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference," 1965
171 23 Report of the SCLC Printshop to the Board of Directors, 1967
172 1 Report to the Board of Directors of the National Sharecroppers Fund, 1967
172 2 SCLC building, 1968
172 3 SCLC directory, circa 1960-1964
172 4 SCLC Minority Group Conference, 1968
172 5 Soul Force editorial planning notes, circa 1968 [See also Subseries 6.3: Publications]
172 6 Statement on the Civil Rights Act of 1965
172 7 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), 1960
172 8 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), International Seminar on Apartheid, Racial Discrimination and Colonialism in Southern Africa, Kitwe, Zambia, 1967
172 9 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), "SNCC: A Special Report on Southern School Desegregation," 1965
172 10 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), "The Student Voice Prospectus," 1967
172 11 United Church Board for Homeless Ministries, 1965
172 12 Vietnam, 1966-1968
172 13 Washington Campaign for Jobs or Income Now, 1968
172 14 Watts, Leon, circa 1967
172 15 Western Christian Leadership Conference, Los Angeles, California, 1965 [See also Subseries 5.2: Chapter files]
172 16 White House Conference, "To Fulfill these Rights," 1966
172 17 "Who's Who in SCLC" questionnaire, undated
Speaking engagements and statements
172 18 1962 September 26, "The Nation and Its Unfinished Task," 6th Annual Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Birmingham
172 19 1963 February 10, "There Is a Lad Here," Howard University, Washington, D.C.
172 20 1964 May 19, "Love and Race Relations," American Baptist Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey
172 21 1964 July 12, Pre-Republican Convention civil rights rally, San Francisco, California
172 22 1964 September 13, Berlin, Germany
172 23 1964 October 14, "Education's Role in the War on Poverty," South Fallsburg, New York
172 24 1964 October 25, Bennett College, Greensboro, North Carolina
172 25 1964 October 29, Rocky Mt. Voters and Improvement League
172 26 1964 October 30, First Baptist Church, Petersburg, Virginia
172 27 1964 November 14, Norristown, Pennsylvania Branch, NAACP
172 28 1965, St. Phillips AME Church, New York, New York
172 29 1965 March 12, Regarding the death of Reverend James Reeb
172 30 1965 April 11, Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia
172 31 1965 April 27, Morris Brown College, Atlanta, Georgia
172 32 1965 May 10, Rockland County Conference on Race and Religion, Spring Valley, New York
172 33 1965 May 16, Zion Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky
172 34 1965 June 5, Syran Temple #49, Denver, Colorado
172 35 1965 June 30, University of Rochester, New York
172 36 1965 August 29, Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois
172 37 1965 September 17, Mt. Zion Second Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia
172 38 1965 October 23, First Baptist Church, Burlington, North Carolina
172 39 1965 October 31, "A Christian Movement in a Revolutionary Age," Second Baptist Church sermon, Detroit, Michigan
172 40 1966 February 26, Human Relations Seminar, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii
172 41 1966 November 1, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts
172 42 1966 December 30, Atlanta, Georgia
172 43 1967 January 9, Atlanta, Georgia
172 44 1967 January 10, Atlanta, Georgia
172 45 1967 January 10, Atlanta, Georgia
172 46 1968 January 3
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