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Clayborne Carson

clergyman and civil rights leader, was born David Abernathy near Linden, Alabama, the tenth of twelve children of farm owners Will L. Abernathy and Louivery Bell Abernathy. Abernathy spent his formative years on his family's five-hundred-acre farm in rural Marengo County in southwestern Alabama. His father's economic self-sufficiency and industry spared the family from most of the hardships of the Great Depression. “We didn't know that people were lining up at soup kitchens in cities all over the country,” he would recall in his autobiography, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down Abernathy 6 Along with other family members he attended Hopewell Baptist Church where his father served as a deacon and decided early to become a preacher a commitment strengthened by a conversion experience at the age of seven Abernathy attended high school at all black Linden Academy a Baptist affiliated institution Having little exposure to whites during ...


Robert Fay

Ralph Abernathy was born in Linden, Alabama, to William and Louivery Abernathy. He earned a B.S. degree from Alabama State College, and was ordained a Baptist minister in 1948. In 1951 Abernathy received an M.A. degree in sociology from Atlanta University and became pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He and Martin Luther King Jr., protesting segregated public transportation, led the successful boycott of the Montgomery bus system in 1955.

In 1957 Abernathy helped Dr. King found the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) to coordinate nonviolent resistance to segregation. After King's assassination in 1968, Ralph Abernathy became SCLC president until he resigned in 1977, after which he served as a pastor of a Baptist church in Atlanta. His autobiography, titled And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, was published in 1989.

See also Montogomery Bus Boycott.


Kenneth H. Williams

Abernathy, Ralph David (11 March 1926–17 April 1990), civil rights leader and minister, was born David Abernathy in Linden, Alabama, the son of William L. Abernathy and Louivery Valentine Bell, farmers. A sister’s favorite professor was the inspiration for the nickname “Ralph David,” and although Abernathy never made a legal change, the name remained with him from age twelve.

Abernathy’s parents owned a 500-acre farm, one of the more successful in Marengo County. His father, a community leader, served as head deacon of the local Baptist church for nearly forty years, became the first black in the county to vote and serve on a jury, and contributed heavily to building and maintaining schools in the area, including Linden Academy, the high school Ralph attended.

From the time he was a child Abernathy aspired to the ministry As he related in his autobiography The preacher after all was ...


Jennifer Jensen Wallach

minister, civil rights activist, and close adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. An Alabama native, Abernathy was one of twelve children born to successful farmers who had managed to rise from sharecropping to owning a five-hundred-acre farm. Abernathy's father was a deacon in a local church, and from a young age Abernathy wanted to join the ministry. He became an ordained Baptist minister in 1948. In 1950 he received a BS in mathematics from Alabama State University. He began what became a career in political activism while in college by leading demonstrations to protest the poor quality of food in the campus cafeteria and the lack of heat and hot water in campus housing. While in college he became interested in sociology, and he earned an MA in the subject from Atlanta University in 1951.

Abernathy became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery ...


Mary T. Henry

bishop, civil rights leader, and educator, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to Rev. Eugene Avery Adams and Charity Nash Adams. He and his three siblings, Avery, Charity, and Lucy Rose, were raised in a spiritual and intellectually stimulating home. His father, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister and social activist, in the 1920s organized the first African American bank in Columbia and the first modern statewide civil rights organization in South Carolina. None of these activities went unnoticed by young John and they helped to define his later focus and commitments. Adams was educated in the segregated Columbia school system and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. His undergraduate work was completed at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he earned an AB degree in History in 1947 After studying at Boston University School of Theology he received a bachelor of ...


Nathan Zook

minister, civil rights leader, and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, was born Avery Caesar Alexander in the town of Houma in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, to a family of sharecroppers. The names of his parents are not known. Seventeen years later, his family moved to New Orleans. Avery Alexander maintained an active life there and in Baton Rouge for the next seventy-two years.

Prior to his election to the Louisiana legislature, Alexander was employed as a longshoreman. At the same time, he pursued an education by taking night courses, receiving his high school diploma from Gilbert Academy in 1939. He became politically active by working as a labor union operative for a longshoreman's union, Local 1419. He also held the occupations of real estate broker and insurance agent.

Alexander received a degree in theology from Union Baptist Theological Seminary and became an ordained Baptist minister ...


Peter Wallenstein

educator and civil rights litigant, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. The Alstons owned their home, and Melvin grew up in a middle-class environment. After attending Norfolk's segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated in 1935 from Virginia State College, where he was honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship. Following graduation he began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men's Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church.

Alston played a key role in an effort by black teachers in the Norfolk city public schools to challenge racial discrimination in their salaries. In 1937 the Virginia Teachers Association VTA and ...


Theodore Kornweibel

Robert Wellington Bagnall was born into a middle-class family in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of an Episcopal priest, Robert Bagnall, and his wife, Sophronia Harrison Bagnall. Educated at Bishop Payne Divinity School in Virginia, young Bagnall was ordained a priest of the Episcopal Church in 1903 and served pastorates in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio. In 1911 he moved to St. Matthew's Church in Detroit, Michigan, where he increased membership and finances and abolished the rented pew system. Although it was not a working-class congregation, the church began to orient itself toward the problems of adjustment of the increasing stream of migrants from the South.

Church prominence catapulted Bagnall into civil rights leadership. In 1911 he joined a local protest group and soon reorganized it as a branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NAACP He spearheaded efforts to persuade the Ford ...


Tyler Cloud

clergyman and civil rights activist, was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was the fifth child of an uneducated railroad employee and a schoolteacher, according to the Hartford Courant. Battles attended Philander Smith College and majored in law at Arkansas Baptist College. After college he studied for the ministry and graduated from the Union Theological Seminary with a bachelor of divinity degree. He was ordained in 1957. His studies were interrupted by World War II, when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After the war he returned to his ministry and began serving as pastor in Beacon, New York, and Jamaica, Queens (New York).

In 1961 Battles moved to Hartford, Connecticut, and became pastor at Mount Olive Baptist Church, succeeding the late Reverend Goode S. Clark. In January 1960 the church had just eight hundred members He preached there ...


Clifton H. Johnson

clergyman and abolitionist, was born in Colchester, Connecticut, the son of Jehiel C. Beman, a clergyman. Nothing is known of his mother. He grew up and received a basic education in Middletown, Connecticut, where his father was pastor of the African church. A Wesleyan University student, L. P. Dole, volunteered to tutor Beman after the university refused his application for admission because he was an African American. Dole and Beman suffered ridicule and harassment from other students, and an anonymous threat of bodily harm from “Twelve of Us” caused Beman to give up the effort after six months. He went to Hartford, where he taught school for four years, and around 1836 he briefly attended the Oneida Institute in New York.

Beman was ordained as a Congregational minister in 1839. At about this time he married a woman whose name is not known. In 1841 ...


Eric R. Jackson

pastor, community servant, and civil rights activist, was born in Collins, Mississippi. The 1930 Census lists his parents as D. Douglas Booth and Mamie Booth, both of whom lived on a farm in Mississippi. He graduated from Collins's Old Hopewell High School in 1936. That year young Booth preached his first sermon. Booth attended Alcorn A & M College, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1940. Booth then enrolled in Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia to obtain his degree in divinity. Several years later he entered Howard University in Washington, DC. In 1943 he graduated with honors from Howard University School of Religion, earning his bachelor of divinity degree, and was elected president of his class. While a student at Howard, in 1942, Booth married Georgia Anna Morris. Several years later, in 1944 Booth became the pastor of small Baptist ...


Daniel L. Fountain

Baptist minister, missionary, and author, was born Charles Octavius Boothe in Mobile County, Alabama, to a Georgia‐born slave woman belonging to and carried west by the slave owner Nathan Howard Sr. Little is known of Boothe s Georgian parents but he proudly claimed that his great grandmother and stepgrandfather were Africans Boothe s description of his ancestors reflects his lifelong pride in his African heritage but he was equally effusive about the spiritual influence that these Christian elders had on his life His earliest recollections included his stepgrandfather s prayer life and singing of hymns and the saintly face and pure life of my grandmother to whom white and black went for prayer and for comfort in the times of their sorrows These early familial Christian influences were further reinforced by attending a Baptist church in the forest where white and colored people sat together to commune and to ...


Robert Fay

Born in Macon, Georgia, William Borders was the third generation of preachers in his family. He earned a B.A. degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1929, a B.D. degree from Garrett Theological Seminary in 1932, an M.A. degree from the University of Chicago in 1936 ...


Kathryn Lofton

community organizer and Pentecostal bishop, was born in a Hyde Park apartment on Chicago's South Side. His parents were among the waves of African Americans who migrated from the South to the North in pursuit of greater economic opportunity and social mobility during the Great Migration. His mother, Geneva, was a household domestic and lay Pentecostal preacher, eventually leading the Universal Church of Christ in Chicago. His father, Robert, was a maintenance man at the Hyde Park Laundry Company from 1921 to 1940. One of five children, Brazier grew up in a highly segregated black community, since restrictive covenants bound blacks to certain areas of the city.

From his early teenage years, Brazier worked whenever he wasn't in school, first as a milkman's helper for the Bowman Dairy Company and later as a parking attendant at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933 and 1934 During the Depression Brazier ...


Sholomo B. Levy

minister and activist, was born on the Lower East Side of New York. His father was a chef, and his mother was an administrator of welfare services. Both had migrated from rural Georgia to the city in hopes of making a better life for themselves and their family. As a young boy, Calvin recalled visiting the church he would one day lead, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he was mesmerized by the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Jr. a figure who seemed to speak from the pulpit of that Gothic sanctuary with a voice of thunder When Calvin was eight the family left their low income housing development in Manhattan for a black suburb in Queens From there Calvin was bused over the protests of white parents to a junior high school in the upscale Forest Hills section of Queens Calvin adjusted well to this experiment in forced ...


Matthew Edson

Presbyterian minister, civil rights leader, and social, political, and religious activist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Barbadian immigrants Arthur and Eva Callender: a factory worker and a homemaker. In the 1930 and 1940 censuses the family lived on Pleasant Street in Cambridge Massachusetts and Callender s father worked as a laborer in a packing company Callender grew up in Cambridge and attended high school at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School from which he graduated second in his class Harvard University was his choice for college but when he applied for his scholarship he was rejected as the college had already admitted its quota for African Americans that year He went on to receive a bachelor of arts from Boston University where he played varsity basketball as a freshman He also earned a masters of divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary where he was the first African ...


David Michel

minister and activist, was born to Archibald J. Carey Sr., a Methodist minister, and Elizabeth Davis Carey in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Doolittle Elementary School and graduated from Wendell Phillips High School in 1925. As a youth Carey exhibited strong speaking skills and won the Chicago Daily News Oratorical Contest in 1924. In his adolescent years he was much influenced by his father, a staunch Republican politician, who took him to a private meeting with President Theodore Roosevelt.

After high school the young Carey pursued his education at the local Lewis Institute, where he earned a BS in 1928. He married Hazel Harper Carey, with whom he had one daughter, Carolyn. In 1929 he was ordained by his father who had become a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal AME Church The following year Carey was assigned to the Woodlawn AME Church in ...


Aldeen L. Davis

Alexander G. Clark was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania. His father, John Clark, had been freed by his Irish master; his mother, Rebecca (Darnes) Clark, was said to have been a full-blooded African. Alexander received a limited education in Washington County and in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was sent in 1839 to live with an uncle. He learned barbering, worked as a bartender on the steamer George Washington, and in May 1842 went to Muscatine, Iowa, where he opened a barbershop. He later contracted with steamboats to supply them with wood. Investing his money wisely, he purchased real estate and became a wealthy man. He devoted most of the rest of his life to the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), Prince Hall Masonry, the Republican Party, civil rights movements, and the Chicago Conservator which he edited He graduated from the University of Iowa Law ...


Kenneth J. Blume

businessman, Masonic leader, attorney, and diplomat, was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, to John Clark, a freed slave, and Rebecca Darnes, who may have been born in Africa. He was educated in the Washington County public schools and in 1839 was sent to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he excelled in academic studies and learned barbering from his uncle, William Darnes. In October 1841 Clark headed south on the Ohio River aboard the steamer George Washington, where he worked as a barber. In May 1842 he settled in Muscatine (then called Bloomington), Iowa. In Muscatine, Clark began a profitable barbering business, supplied wood to Mississippi River steamboats, and invested in timberland and urban property. His real estate transactions made him wealthy, and his ethical practices won him a broad and positive reputation. On 8 October 1848 Clark married Catherine Griffin a former slave in Iowa City The ...


minister and Harlem civil rights leader, was born in Fairmount (Somerset County), Maryland, the son of Isaac and Emmeline Williams Cullen, who had been slaves. The youngest of eleven children, Cullen grew up in poverty, his father having passed away two months after his birth. He moved to Baltimore with his mother at age twelve and worked for a physician while attending Maryland State Normal School (later Towson University). He then taught public school in Fairmount for two years before entering Morgan College (later Morgan State University), an Episcopalian seminary in Baltimore; between his first and second year of studies, he also worked as a waiter in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He had received a preacher's license while in Fairmount and was ordained in 1900.

Cullen's religious awakening had taken place in September 1894 at Sharp Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore and he had preached his ...