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PHOTO ESSAY

Black Churches in America

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Ralph Abernathy

Courtesy of Library of Congress (U.S. News and World Report Collection: LC-U0-19265)

Black churches played a decisive role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, most notably the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. Ralph Abernathy first met King after hearing him deliver a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and quickly became one of his closest friends and allies. As one of many ministers who bridged politics and religion in the struggle to win equality for African Americans, Abernathy took the lead in mobilizing the black churches of Montgomery, Alabama, for the bus boycott of 1955, eventually becoming the key figure of the boycott movement. Abernathy was at King's side when he was assassinated on 4 April 1968 and succeeded him as president of the SCLC. He remained with the group until 1977 and continued to be an outspoken proponent of civil rights as pastor of West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, which he held until his death in 1990.

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