Black History Month: Daytime News Coverage Influences History

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In a recent conversation with actress/activist Donzaleigh Abernathy, she reflected on the effect and importance of the daytime media on the efforts made by her father, Dr. Ralph David Abernathy and the man she referred to as Uncle Martin (Martin Luther King, Jr.).  Donzaleigh began her life in the midst of the civil rights movement.  She participated in all of the major marches and had a bird’s eye view of the decision making process of most of the important civil rights laws, decisions and the leading roles that daytime television news played in broadcasting, reporting and chronicling the ground breaking news stories of the racial, social and political atrocities happening in the south during the days of the American civil rights and human movements.  Daytime television news kept America and the world informed and educated with up to the minute broadcast of facts and coverage of the civil rights movement.

“Social inequality, lack of equal rights and injustices against people of Color led my Father, Ralph David Abernathy, my Uncle, Martin Luther King, Jr., and nonviolent black and white civil rights marchers and demonstrators in the south to stand up and peacefully protest against racial hatred for the right to vote, for the integration of schools, for the integration of restaurants, public parks, public transportation, all public accommodations, for fair housing, and for justice and equality for all American citizens regardless of the color of a person’s skin, their race, their religion, their sex or their sexual orientation,” remarks Donzaleigh

“We, the American people, are thankful today and eternally indebted to the daytime television news media, because of the courageous members of the media, the men and women who gave their lives reporting and working tirelessly in television news for local and national stations across America, so that their companies could broadcast one of the greatest struggles for human justice and equality known to human kind.  From the reporters, camera operators, sound technicians, to the news producers, who went to the south beginning in 1955 through 1973 to film, document, record and report about the daily activities of the civil rights movement, only to discover and witness the violence, the killings, the bombing, the harassment and daily violent threats made upon our lives and the lives of the nonviolent civil rights demonstrators from members of the KKK, southern white policemen, southern elected officials and southern segregationists.  Many times, these courageous members of the daytime news media found themselves also to be victims of that same violence, simply because they were seeking to accurately report the news.  The ladies and gentlemen of daytime television news risked their lives to report about the civil rights struggle in the south and unfortunately some members of the media ultimately gave their lives and died while reporting on the civil rights movement.”

Donzaleigh added, “The media courageously broadcasted the truth about racial hatred, violence and injustice endured by non whites in the southern states to the rest of the world and helped to bring about social change in America.  We are eternally grateful to the daytime news media for helping us to overcome the racial discrimination from 244 years of Slavery and 100 years of legalized segregation.”

DonzaleighAbernathy DARalphMartin

BIO in Brief – Donzaleigh Abernathy starred for four years in a leading role on Lifetime Television’s critically acclaimed dramatic series, “ANY DAY NOW,” as a character that ages from 30 years old to 70 years old every episode.  She also starred as Martha, the Slave” in Warner Bros’ Civil War motion picture epic, “Gods and Generals.”  She was the leading lady in HBO’s Award Winning “Don King: Only in America,” a supporting lead in HBO’s Award Winning “Miss Evers Boys,” opposite Peter Fonda in the NBC Productions of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and as a lead in “Murder in Mississippi,” which won the DGA Award for director Roger Young. Recently Donzaleigh portrayed Dr. Stevens on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Donzaleigh authored the history book, “PARTNERS TO HISTORY: Martin Luther King, Ralph David Abernathy and the Civil Rights Movement,” published by Random House/Crown which was nominated by the American Library Association as one of the “Best Books of 2004” for Young Adults.” Atty. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote the Foreword. In 2012, she won a TANNE FOUNDATION ARTIST AWARD for her script, BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY. She and her husband, Dar Dixon Bijarchi, created the Television Project, ST. FRANCIS MEDICAL.  

Photo Credits: From the personal Abernathy Family archives

1.) Donzaleigh Abernathy today
2.) Donzaleigh Abernathy stands front and center with Father and Uncle Martin, during the Selma March
3.) Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ralph David Abernathy