Feb 27, 2021
Actor, singer, writer, and civil rights activist Donzaleigh Abernathy is goddaughter of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and daughter of the Reverend Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, King's best friend and partner in the civil rights movement — who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and became president of it after King's assassination on April 4, 1968. Her mother was civil rights activist Juanita Abernathy.
As a child, Abernathy witnessed some of the most inspiring and formative moments of the civil rights movement — and some of the most sobering. She also grew up knowing and loving the man she called Uncle Martin, whose stances against racism, poverty, and war remain as relevant today as they were when he first voiced them. Also relevant are his calls for creative maladjustment, meaning the refusal to adjust to society's many ills.
Abernathy is the author of Partners to History: Martin Luther King, Ralph David Abernathy and the Civil Rights Movement. She also contributed to the Smithsonian Institute’s In the Spirit of Martin.
As an actor, she's known for her many roles in films — such as the civil war drama Gods and Generals — and many series, including the Lifetime drama Any Day Now and zombie-apocalypse series The Walking Dead. In addition, she is the lead soloist in a new choral piece, The Listening, composed by Cheryl B. Engelhardt for the Voices 21C Choir in New York City. It’s inspired by an anti-war speech King delivered exactly one year before his death, and it’s been released as a single and a video.