Cover image for Partners to history : Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and the civil rights movement
Partners to history : Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and the civil rights movement
Abernathy, Donzaleigh.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Publishers, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 240 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 8.5 9.0 85312.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.61 .A165 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize
E185.61 .A165 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Oversize
E185.61 .A165 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
E185.61 .A165 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Ralph David Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr. were inseparable and together helped to establish what would become the modern American Civil Rights Movement. They preached, marched, and were frequently jailed together. Donzaleigh Abernathy, Ralph's youngest daughter, has writtenPartners to Historyas a testament to the courage, strength, and endurance of these men who stirred a nation with their moral fortitude. She also pays tribute to the thousands of unsung heroes--the other partners to this history--who were foot soldiers in the endless struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. This document captures in words and pictures how the dream of two visionaries changed the course of American history and inspired the world. Partners to Historyis a unique look at a troubling time, and its usage of dramatic--and personal--photographs, combined with the voices of King and Abernathy, seamlessly conveys the fears, frustrations, and pain of the long days and nights spent planning the many crusades. Donzaleigh Abernathy's recollections provide personal insight from someone who lived through the tumult and witnessed firsthand the relationship of these lifelong friends. "People didn't know Daddy and Uncle Martin," she writes. "They know the legends. They don't know the fathers, the husbands, the men, the human beings. I feel obliged to tell the beautiful stories of these beautiful men I lived with and loved." Chronicling the crucial events of the movement, from the early strategy sessions in the homes of integrationists and the Montgomery Bus Boycott to Birmingham, the Freedom Riders, and the March on Washington, the author provides a unique insider's perspective. With heart-wrenching precision, she lays bare the horrifying deaths of four little girls in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and follows the search for three murdered civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi. She goes behind the scenes to the intimate moments and reveals the determination of two families caught up in the fight for equal rights. King and Abernathy believed in a cause and laid their lives on the line time and time again, knowing deep in their hearts that they were working not only for their people, but for the good of all humankind. When, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Ralph David Abernathy vowed to persevere and continue their dream, knowing that people could not be free until the walls came tumbling down. Inspirational and beautifully illustrated,Partners to Historyreveals the remarkable relationship between two great leaders and serves as a reminder and tribute to this tumultuous era.

Author Notes

She is an actress, lecturer, and daughter of the late Civil Rights activist Ralph David Abernathy. She lectures around the country about Civil Rights throughout the year; she is also a costar of the Lifetime network's dramatic series "Any Day Now."

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this large-format book, the daughter of prominent civil rights leader Ralph David Abernathy gives an insider's view of the civil rights movement, juxtaposing family remembrances with history and speeches by her father and his dear friend and close collabortor, Martin Luther King Jr. The effect is to intensify the sense of tragedy-family friends and allies, such as Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo and Robert Kennedy, are lovingly described, only to die brutally at the hands of a lynch mob, or in a church bombing, or as those three were, by gunshot. In fact, seen cumulatively here, in nearly 375 b&w candid and news photos, the high death toll of the civil rights movement becomes appallingly evident. The photographs, while unevenly captioned, are a marvel. On one page, the families are found smiling in the Abernathy living room, on the next Abernathy solemnly inspects his bombed house, and on the page after that, King Jr. steadies himself on a police station desk as a policeman twists one arm painfully behind his back. Perhaps the most unexpected images are lesser known photographs of segregation supporters-one shows two glamorous women holding placards reading: "Governor Faubus Save Our Christian America" and "Race Mixing is Communism." Painful and often devastating-but also joyous-this book records the hard road to incremental gain. (Oct. 21) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



1619 Stolen from Native Shores We can not dedicate-we can not consecrate-we can not hallow-this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it. . . . The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.--Abraham Lincoln The Gettysburg Address, 1863 In August of the year 1619, the first ship carrying African slaves arrived in the port of the Jamestown colony at the mouth of the James River in Virginia. The slaves were to be the free labor force for harvesting the profitable tobacco crop. The African slave was not permitted to assimilate into the white culture, making the color of his skin a "badge of servitude." It was nearly impossible for the African slave to escape back to Africa. Until the further development of America and Canada, the African slave had nowhere to go or hide from the slave owners. Slave laborers were able to survive and make considerable financial profits for the plantation owners, whereas white indentured servants perished, causing a financial loss. At the end of the Colonial period in American history, the Negro numbered between 400,000 to 500,000 slaves in the colonies. Three-fourths of the African slave population resided in the Southern colonies, where they made up two-fifths of the entire population. It was recorded in South Carolina that African slaves outnumbered the whites two to one. The plantation region consisted of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and the remaining Southern colonies. These lands were flat, wide coastal plains with spacious bays, and harbors and widely navigable rivers. The fertile soil near the banks of the rivers created rich agriculture. Because the tidewater swept up the river, the coast regions came to be known as the tidewater area. Tobacco was the staple crop of the tidewater region. In the Carolinas, rice and indigo were the crops and in the Deep South, or "the black belt" as it would come to be called, cottons would become king. In the Deep South, where the crop was cotton, the demand for slave labor was insatiable. Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin turned the South into the "Cotton Kingdom." Before the Civil War, one-half of the American goods shipped abroad was cotton. It has been recorded that between 1820 and 1860 the number of slaves grew from 1 million to almost 4 million. The price of a slave who worked the fields simultaneously increased from between $300 and $400 to $1,000 and up. The average Southern white family held one to four slaves and at the time of the Civil War an estimated 400,000 Southern white families had slaves. In some cases, if the land holdings were in the tens of thousands of acres, then the slave holdings were in the thousands as well. An average number of slaves on a large plantation ranged from six to seven thousand. With the growing demand for slaves, the great danger for freed slaves was the possibility of being kidnapped and sold back into slavery. Poor white men looked forward to becoming slave owners and the owners of a few slaves longed to become owners of many, while the wealthy landowner's rank in Southern society was determined by the number of human slaves he owned. Slavery of black people was justified by some because black people were not Christians and therefore considered savage. The U.S. Constitution in deciding the appropriations of congressional seats from the South decided in the "Great Compromise" to regard a black person as three-fifths of a human being. Within the boundaries of the plantation consisted a little village. The owner, his wife, and their family usually lived lavishly in a manor house, with servants. There were small bunkhouses with dirt floors for the slaves, where many people were forced to inhabit a small space. Only the "privileged" slaves had private dwellings or lived in the big house with the plantation owner's family. Practically all of the fieldwork was done by slaves. It was usually at the hand of the overseer that slaves suffered their greatest abuse. During the Civil War, as the great cotton and tobacco plantations burned, Southerners taught their children that this war was being fought because of Northern greed to dominate the prosperous South economically, and not to free the black slave from bondage or to maintain a united union. At the opulent, 1,700-acre former South Carolina Cotton Plantation, Boone Hall, it was written that "this was an unjust war being fought for a docile people who were simply content to have a hot meal, a fire and a warm place to sleep." Southerners believed that the slaves got "much positive enjoyment out of life." Their written sentiments were that "the slaves were extremely gregarious and delighted in plantation life. Slaves were permitted to have picnics on occasions and their love for singing, music, and dance contributed to the community." Misinformed Southerners thought that the life of a physically abused, overworked slave, sold into bondage from family and friends, offered more advantages for food, clothing, and shelter than the free, "savage" life that slaves left behind in Africa. The typical Southerner arguing the merits of the Confederacy felt, and still feels, no deep compassion or empathy for the men and women that they held captive and physically abused in slavery. Instead it was their tragic illusion of a glorious past life of "Southern gentility" to which their passions clung. They could not understand why Northerners, who had also previously owned slaves, cared about the well-being of a race of people the Southerners called "Darkies." This lack of understanding and utterly blatant disregard for the atrocious conditions of race relations for black people further widened the gap between the North and the South, ensuring the inevitability of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement to come. What the Southerner did not anticipate was the unrelenting need of the Negro to be freed from slavery and racial oppression. Black slaves eagerly assisted Northerners in liberating millions of slaves in the South, dismantling the racist regime of the Confederacy and in some cases leaving the Avenue of Oaks, the tree-lined drive to those once-opulent plantations, as the only memory left standing of these dreadful slave farms. The Negro came to the United States of America in 1619. Read any history book you want to read and you won't find it stated any better than that. We didn't come here on our own. But we were brought here from the jungles of Africa. We were happy, we were pleased, we were satisfied, and we were content in Africa. "But we were snatched from the bosom of our native soil, packed into ships and chained down against our will. Mr. Bennett says in his book that I am reading, Before the Mayflower, that hundreds of Negroes were thrown overboard and were caused to perish in the middle of the sea, simply because the mean and cruel task master, the white man, would walk down the aisle and stumble over Negroes chained to the ship and say, 'We have too many on board. Dump them over into the sea.' "We were brought here against our will, and when we got here we found no freedom. "And ever since sixteen hundred and nineteen, we have been misunderstood. We were forced to work in the fields from sunup to sundown. Who was it that cleared the new ground? There once was a time when where the city of Birmingham rests, there was nothing but a wilderness. Who was it that cut down the trees? Who was it that built the skyscrapers? Who was it that cut the streets and the avenues, cared for the sick, fed the hungry, and carried the garbage away? NOBODY BUT THE NEGRO. NOBODY BUT THE NEGRO. And he has remained faithful to this land. He fought in every war. Call them off. Name the wars he fought in. "All the way from Boston Commons, when Crispus Attucks, a black man, was the first one to give his red blood in an effort to bring this nation into being. "For it was on the sad Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor, the beach at Normandy, black boys and black fathers gave their red blood alongside their white brothers to preserve this nation. "Ever since then, Negroes have been rising and falling, blundering and stumbling, mistreated, neglected, and dejected. But still saying, from the bottom of their hearts, 'God bless America, God bless America, my home sweet home.' "Now this is our home. We want you to know that this is our home. We do not agree with those who want certain states. We don't want any particular state, as some advocate. We don't want any particular territory. We don't want to take over either. We just want to live as brothers. The Negroes of Birmingham are not going back to Africa. Our ancestors came from Africa. We didn't come from there. But until the Englishman goes back to England, until the Italian goes back to Italy, until the German goes back to Germany, the Mexican back to Mexico, the Frenchman goes back to France, the Spaniard goes back to Spain, and the white man gives back this country to the Indian, the black man will live in America."--Ralph David Abernathy Birmingham, 1963 "Throughout slavery, the Negro was treated in a very inhumane fashion. He was considered a thing to be used, not a person to be respected. He was merely a depersonalized cog in a vast plantation machine. The famous Dred Scott decision of 1857 clearly expressed the status of the Negro during slavery. In this decision the United States Supreme Court affirmed that the Negro was not a citizen of the United States, he was merely property subject to the dictates of his owner."--Martin Luther King Jr. San Francisco, 1963 The first Negroes arrived one year prior to the Pilgrim fathers' landing at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. There existed a kindred spirit of respect between the Native American Indians and the black slaves, unlike the antagonistic interests of some white settlers to annihilate, dominate, and control the Native Americans and blacks in order to conquer North America. Millions upon millions of American Indians were brutally slaughtered for defending their country or infected with foreign diseases contracted from the settlers. With the remaining Indians relocated to reservations under illusive treaties, the white settlers staked their claim on the land. For over 200 years Africans were imported to America for slave labor and the institution of slavery lasted for 244 years in the United States. "I was born a slave. I am not sure of the exact date or place of my ancestry, I know almost nothing except my mother. In the slave quarters, I heard whispers of the tortures suffered in the middle passage of the slave ship from Africa to America. My mother was the plantation cook. All the cooking for the whites and slaves my mother had to do over an open fire. There was no wooden floor in our cabin, the naked earth being used as a floor. We slept in and on a bundle of filthy rags laid upon the dirt floor. From the time that I can remember anything, almost every day of my life has been occupied in some kind of labour." "When war began between the North and the South, though other issues were discussed, the primal one was that of slavery. We kept ourselves informed of events by what was termed the 'grapevine' telegraph. I was awakened one night by my mother kneeling over her children, fervently praying that Lincoln and his armies might be successful, and that one day, she and her children might be free. I had no schooling whatsoever while I was a slave, though I had the feeling that to get into a schoolhouse and study would be about the same as getting into paradise."--Booker T. Washington Reconstruction In 1867, two years after the end of the Civil War, Congress passed the Reconstruction Act, which compelled the president to place officials in charge of the former states of the Confederacy. These officials were given the power to govern and had authority to overrule the local existing governments in the South. They registered people of the region to vote, so that the basic principles of democracy could be enforced for the first time in the South. New black voters voted their conscience and not that of their former owners, who wished to return them to servitude. Some said that blacks were controlled by the Northern radicals, but blacks didn't need any Northern coercion to vote against the former regime. They elected blacks to public office for the first time. In the South Carolina Legislature, elected blacks outnumbered whites 88 to 67. As in the pre-Civil War government, there was severe corruption. But the underprivileged classes of Southern society finally had representation: there was relief for the poor, free public schools, and rebuilding of public infrastructure destroyed during the war. The good they accomplished was never appreciated in aristocratic Southern society. Congress did not anticipate the evil emergence of white vigilante groups, angry about the rising status of blacks, and the savage tactics these groups employed to destroy the rights of blacks and regain control. After the Union troops departed the South, leaders of the Confederacy took over again, and those who were not loyal to the Confederacy were punished. Post-Reconstruction Despite the significant contributions of blacks to the American economy and labor force-creative architectural design of the nation's capital, inventions such as the filament in the lightbulb, the (steam heat) radiator, the traffic signal, blood plasma, the printing press, the elevator, the refrigerator, the electric railway system, and the rotary and two-cycle gas engines-they were continually assaulted by racist organizations such as the KKK. Excerpted from Partners to History: Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and the Civil Rights Movement by Donzaleigh Abernathy All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.