Juanita Abernathy honored by Atlanta City Council for civil rights work

There are not many people around anymore with intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the American Civil Rights movement.

One of the few remaining, Juanita Abernathy, the wife of Ralph David Abernathy, who was Martin Luther King Jr.’s main confidant, was honored with an Atlanta City Council proclamation Monday for her role in the movement.

“We can’t begin to give Ms. Abernathy her due,” said Councilman Michael Julian Bond. “Her life is touched by God. Her steps are ordered.”

Abernathy came of age as a civil rights icon right at the dawn of the modern movement. She was the young wife of Rev. Abernathy, who was a pastoring a church in Montgomery. The couple often hung out with another young preacher and his wife, Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King.

It was at the Abernathys’ kitchen table, often following a meal prepared by Juanita Abernathy, that the early strategies of the Civil Rights Movement – particular the Montgomery Bus Boycott – were hatched.

“When I started off in ‘55 in Montgomery, recognition and honor was nowhere in my mind,” said Abernathy, who is still an active member of the MARTA board. “I started when there were no cameras and no newspapers writing nice things about you, instead they were writing all sorts of ugly things. But we kept going. It wasn’t about us. It wasn’t about me. It has always been about right and righteousness. Justice and equality. Not just for me and my family, but for all of God’s children.”

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