Reverend Ralph David Abernathy
@ National Portrait Gallery
DescriptionFollowing Rosa Parks's arrest in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr. established the Montgomery Improvement Association to boycott that Alabama city's segregated public transportation system. Under its auspices, African Americans organized carpools or simply walked to their destinations. As the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery-the location for this photograph by Collier's photojournalist Dan Weiner-Abernathy preached nonviolence as the most effective tactic in the struggle for integration. Although both his church and his home were bombed in 1957, the boycott achieved its desired result. Abernathy became one of King's most trusted advisers, serving as the secretary-treasurer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and marching alongside King at numerous demonstrations. As fellow activist Hosea Williams noted, "Martin wouldn't make a decision without him.
Gelatin Silver Print
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution