Winter 2010: Of Note

Bernice King at microphone

legacy: Bernice King hopes to make the SCLC, which her father cofounded, relevant for today’s black youth.

Cathleen Carrigan/Special

Like Her Father Before Her

Bernice King 90T 90L takes helm of Southern Christian Leadership Conference

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By Mary J. Loftus

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in October named Bernice King 90C 90L, minister at New Birth Missionary Church in Lithonia and the daughter of cofounder Martin Luther King Jr., as its next president.

King, SCLC’s first female leader, says she will use her family legacy to energize a new generation’s nonviolent battle for social justice and to increase the involvement of women. “I stand before you as a daughter of the civil rights movement calling forth the daughters and sons of the next generation of social change,” King said in her acceptance speech. She pledged to build a bridge between veteran black activists of the 1960s and the hip-hop generation of the present day, reenergizing the youthful energy of the SCLC.

King will be the seventh permanent leader in the organization’s history. Now based in Atlanta, the SCLC was founded in New Orleans in 1957 by Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, Joseph Lowery, and other African American leaders from across the South to advance the cause of racial equality. The SCLC helped to pass both the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.

In 2008, Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) received 1,100 boxes containing many of SCLC’s historical records, including photographs documenting events such as voter registration workshops during the civil rights movement, drafts of speeches by Ralph Abernathy, thousands of sympathy cards and letters expressing grief and outrage at the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and letters from people across the country seeking assistance in local political organizing or dealing with violations of civil rights.

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