Ralph David Abernathy's "autobiography," And The Walls Came Tumbling Down, not only relates the story of Ralph Abernathy, but it also offers an intimate, and distinctly unique, perspective into the nonviolent civil rights movement which reached its zenith in the 1960s. The story of the civil rights movement has been told by others, yet none have been as personally connected with the issues, the players, indeed, the experience, as was Abernathy, as a founder and, later, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and as the personal friend, cellmate, and confidant of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The story begins in March, 1926, with the birth of "Little David" in the segregated Alabama agricultural community of Hopewell. His father, W. L. Abernathy, owned almost 500 acres of rich farmland, worked exceedingly hard, and, despite the color of his skin, was a highly respected man. Growing up in such relatively well-to-do circumstances, and in spite of the fact that there were twelve children to provide for, Abernathy admits that
we never wanted for any of life's necessities. Everything I learned about the Great Depression was from a college textbook. We didn't know that people were lining up at soup kitchens in cities all over the country because we raised cattle, hogs, and chickens so we had beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and milk. My father killed thirty to forty hogs a year, and whenever we wanted beef he would kill a calf. . . .
In the garden we grew corn, beets, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, beans, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, okra, collard greens, turnips, mustard greens; and in the orchard we raised peaches, plums, pears, figs, and apples. . . . (W)hatever we lacked in the way of food supplies . . . we bartered for at the general store . . . (6-7).
Abernathy credits his father's "day-by-day example" of sacrificing "his own comforts and pleasures to the greater good of others" in order t...