What’s all this about?

Abernathy is an Oakland-based media company that produces events and long-form, sophisticated content for black professionals. Our mission is to produce quality content that speaks at once to and for that audience: spreading the word about remarkable black men, reinforcing expectations for what our leaders can contribute, and amplifying the good news from all corners of our world.

We tell stories relevant to the black experience and foster dialogue within and between communities. We feature thoughtful, informed, and inclusive perspectives written by people of all backgrounds who are unafraid of speaking truth to power. In this way, Abernathy is simply a metaphor for being a decent human.

My personal position is that I will stand with any disenfranchised group of people. And where I’m starting first is what I know best: what I see when I look in the mirror.

Willie Jackson
Founder and Publisher

What’s in a name?

The Reverend Ralph David Abernathy was born in Linden, Alabama, on March 11, 1926. Son of the first black man to vote and serve on a grand jury in his county, Abernathy was borne into political and social awareness. After an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army during World War II, he earned degrees in mathematics and sociology, becoming an ordained Baptist minister while still a student.

Rev. Ralph David Abernathy
Reverend Ralph David Abernathy. Image by Reg Lancaster/Express/Getty Images

At the age of 25, in 1951, Abernathy was called to lead his own flock as senior pastor of the largest black congregation in Montgomery, First Baptist Church. Three years later, he met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had just taken over as pastor at nearby Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Together, they organized the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott, which started in 1955 with Rosa Parks’ arrest and ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling bus segregation to be unconstitutional.

As a result, Abernathy’s home and church were bombed.

Together, King and Abernathy founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, organizing boycotts, marches, voter registration drives, sit-ins, and other non-violent actions in the fight against the racial discrimination that pervaded the segregated American South, with the support of countless fellow preachers, students, community leaders, and everyday folks, both black and white.

Together, King and Abernathy endured death threats, beatings, bombings, and incarceration for participating in the Movement. During his last speech, in Memphis on April 4, 1968, King said, “Ralph Abernathy is the best friend that I have in the world.” Dr. King was shot the next day.

“Ralph Abernathy is the best friend that I have in the world.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Abernathy continued his work as president of the SCLC into the 1970s, organizing protests and negotiations on behalf of the country’s poor and downtrodden, regardless of race. He founded a non-profit organization to provide job training and opportunities for the unemployed, ran unsuccessfully for Congress, and campaigned for several presidential candidates, both Democrat and Republican, into the 1980s, never giving up the hope that black Americans would eventually gain long-overdue respect. Rev. Abernathy died at age 64 on April 17, 1990.

Yet have you heard of Ralph Abernathy? We don’t believe enough of you have.

Abernathy represents the Movement, especially as the Movement did not end with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Indeed, it hasn’t ended, just as injustice hasn’t ended. Abernathy is about our foundations, from whence we’ve come, and the vision of where we’re going. It’s about the inclusiveness of a struggle with global implications. It’s about the reclamation of those nameless warriors who dwell within us, who are marching stealthily in the footsteps of the Abernathys, the Everses, the Rustins, the Baldwins, the Chisholms, the Tutus, the Sisulus, and all the other “supporting cast members” who played as pivotal a role in our ascendance as a King or an X or a Mandela.

The word, the name Abernathy—pleasant on the tongue and soothing to the ear—sends a vibration in the present that is tied at once to our past and our future, to our inner and outer purposes.

Abernathy is our now.

Ernest White II
Editor Emeritus

There’s more where that came from.

Subscribe to our free newsletter for weekly updates about our new articles, live events, and how you can get involved.