Ralph David Abernathy III, son of a prominent civil rights leader, spoke at a Black History Month program at Albany State University on Friday. taken 02-22-13. story by Jennifer. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
ALBANY, Ga. -- In 1968, then 9-year-old Ralph D. Abernathy III stood alongside men and women in the push for equality and was arrested as part of a "mule train" march to a Martin Luther King Jr. rally.
Abernathy shared that experience Friday as the speaker at the Albany State University Department of History and Political Science Black History Month lecture at the university's Simmons Hall.
A former Georgia state senator and preacher, he is the son of Ralph David Abernathy Sr., a prominent leader in the movement and one of King's right-hand men.
The two families were close enough to where King became known to the younger Abernathy as "Uncle Martin." It was a partnership that began after Rosa Parks decided in December 1955 that she would not give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus for a white man, and continued until King was assassinated at a motel in Memphis, Tenn.
The two men shared the same room together at the motel, and King was waiting for the elder Abernathy to come out onto the balcony when the gunshots went off.
While King's work ended there, Abernathy's did not.
"It was set up so that he would replace King," the younger Abernathy said Friday. "In case something happened, (King) wanted to make sure his work continued.
"Abernathy (Sr.) was the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement, and Martin Luther King was the neckbone. Let us tell the story of this dynamic duo that most of you did not know. It was two; it was not one."
In his remarks, to a crowd largely comprising college students, the former state senator said that it is not just the black population that needs to move the cause forward.
"Black and white people need to work together to make the Civil Rights Movement a success," he said. "Not all white people are bad and not all black people are good. We may have come in on different ships, but we are in the same boat.
"Freedom is not simply the right to do what you please, but when it pleases you to do what is right."
He also stressed the idea that knowledge is power.
"Not everyone can go to college, but everybody can be something," Abernathy said. "If you are educated, opportunity will come."
At the end of Friday's program, he was given a plaque as a token of appreciation by Albany State officials for visiting and participating in the program.