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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 ...

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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.

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Sandy Dwayne Martin

clergyman, community activist, denomination organizer, and black nationalist was born Albert Buford Cleage Jr., one of seven children of Pearl (whose maiden name is now unknown) and Albert Cleage Sr., in Indianapolis, Indiana. Shortly after Agyeman's birth, Cleage, Sr., a medical doctor, relocated with his family to Detroit, Michigan, where the father helped to establish the city's first African American hospital. After an undergraduate education that included a stay at Fisk University in Tennessee, Agyeman received his BA in Sociology from Wayne State University in 1937, serving as a caseworker for the Department of Public Welfare from 1931 to 1938. Subsequently Agyeman felt the call to ministry and obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Oberlin College Graduate School of Theology in 1943. Also in 1943Agyeman married Doris Graham, to which union was born two children, Kris and the ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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James V. Hatch

playwright and minister, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Little is known about his parents, although his mother is said to have been an active reformer and a poet. Anderson completed four years of school (the only formal education that he ever received) before his father moved the family to California to take a job as a janitor in the post office. The following year Anderson's mother died, and at age twelve he left home to become a newsboy, selling the Telegraph Press on the corner of Third and Market streets in San Francisco.

After working as a porter on the railroad, Anderson worked for the next fifteen years as a bellhop in various San Francisco hotels. During this period he also became a temporary convert to Christian Science. One afternoon in 1924 he saw a performance of Channing Pollack's moralistic drama The Fool and knew immediately that he ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Thiven Reddy

South African religious figure and antiapartheid activist, was born to Sarah and Willem Boesak in Kakamas, Northern Cape. When Boesak was young, his father, a teacher, passed away. His family moved to Somerset West, where, at age 14, Boesak became active in the Dutch Reformed Church. He studied at the Bellville Theological Seminary, graduating as a priest in 1967. He went on to obtain a doctorate in Holland at the Kampen Theological Institute and then returned to South Africa to assume an active role in the struggle against apartheid.

As leader of the Afrikaner-dominated Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), he was the major force in getting the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to declare apartheid a heresy in 1982 At the time that body had not questioned South Africa s membership or the supportive stand of the DRC and the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk NHK toward apartheid and the ruling ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Christopher J. Colvin

South African religious and political leader, was born on 10 January 1931 in Cape Town, South Africa to Mike Boraine and Isa Blanche. He grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Brooklyn in an English-speaking household and had two brothers, both of whom were killed in World War II. As was typical for white families of his generation, his early years brought him into very little contact with South Africans from other racial groups, and the political consciousness in his family centered mostly around the divisions between the English and Afrikaner communities in South Africa. After completing tenth grade, Boraine left school and worked at a variety of odd jobs. His father died when he was eighteen.

In that same year after a childhood that was relatively nonreligious Boraine attended a Methodist youth camp and experienced a dramatic conversion His rise through the church was equally dramatic Within a year ...

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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 ...

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Ralph E. Luker

Methodist educator and theologian, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Edward Bowen and Rose Simon. John's father was a carpenter from Maryland who was enslaved when he moved to New Orleans. After purchasing his own freedom, Edward Bowen bought that of his wife and son in 1858 and served in the Union army during the Civil War. After the war, young J. W. E. Bowen studied at the Union Normal School in New Orleans and at New Orleans University, which was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church for the education of freedmen. Bowen received a bachelor's degree with the university's first graduating class in 1878. Eight years later, New Orleans University awarded him a master's degree. From 1878 to 1882 Bowen taught mathematics and ancient languages at Central Tennessee College in Nashville.

In 1882 Bowen began theological studies at Boston University While he was ...

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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 ...

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Jennifer Jensen Wallach

civil rights activist and religious leader. Hubert Gerold “H. Rap” Brown was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1943. He attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, studying sociology from 1960 to 1964. He then relocated to Washington, D.C., where he became chairman of the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG), a civil rights organization. During his brief tenure with the NAG, Brown attended a high-profile meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson. Much to the chagrin of more moderate black leaders, Brown refused to show deference to the president, instead rebuking him for the state of American race relations.

In 1966 Brown joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), becoming director of the Alabama Project. In 1967 at the age of twenty three he was elected chairman of the organization Brown led SNCC in a transition away from the nonviolent philosophy of the early days of the civil ...

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Alonford James Robinson

Hubert Brown was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1962 he dropped out of Southern University to join the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG) at Howard University. In 1965 he became chairman of NAG. Labeled an extremist by the media for his nationalist views, Brown was an outspoken advocate of Black Power in the United States. In May 1967, when Stokely Carmichael stepped down, Brown was elected national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

That same year, Brown was charged by the states of Maryland and Ohio with inciting violence. He was harassed by the police and targeted by the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). While under indictment, Brown was arrested for transporting weapons across state lines. He resigned as SNCC chairman in 1968 Later that year he was sentenced to five years in prison on federal weapons charges ...

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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 ...