Story by R. Slade Walters
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office
In the year 2013, with an African-American currently serving a second term as president of the United States, one might forget that people who personally experienced and participated in the American civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s are still alive today.
One of those people is Juandalynn Abernathy, daughter of civil rights activists Rev. Ralph and Juanita Abernathy. She is a professional soprano and concert singer and lives in Balingen, about 45 minutes from Stuttgart.
In an interview conducted for the Library of Congress and the National Museum of African American History and Culture during a video teleconference at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart headquarters on Panzer Kaserne Oct. 10, Abernathy shared some remembrances of her parents and the civil rights movement.
Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries of the Ohio State University and the Southern Oral History Program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted the VTC interview from a television studio on the campus of Georgia Tech University in Atlanta with Juandalynn’s brother, Dr. Ralph Abernathy III, and her sister, Donzaleigh Abernathy.
Early in the interview, Juandalynn and Ralph pointed out that their father should be remembered as one of the principal leaders of the civil rights movement along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“My father wasn’t an assistant – he was a partner with Dr. King,” Abernathy said.
During the one-hour interview, each of the siblings recalled personal childhood memories.
“I can remember very clearly, one afternoon, police officers coming to our house and … they took our new car. I didn’t understand that. I was two or three [years old],” Abernathy said when Jeffries asked her about her first encounter with the civil rights movement.
The interview will be part of an exhibition at the National Museum of African American History and Culture along with photographs and videos.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress making it the 19th and newest Smithsonian Museum.
According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture website, the museum is scheduled to officially open in 2015 on the National Mall in Washington D.C. adjacent to the Washington Monument.
In 2009, the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights History Project Act which directed the Museum and the Library of Congress to collect personal histories and testimonials of people who were involved in the American civil rights movement.
During the pre-building phase, the museum is producing publications, hosting public programs and assembling collections.