Earlier this month, two pivotal activists of the Civil Rights Movement passed away, according to The Washington Post. Dr. Emily England Clyburn (80) and Juanita Abernathy (87) helped to shape the movement’s behind-the-scenes activity that sparked change in racial behaviors and equality in the United States. Abernathy passed away on Sept. 12, while Clyburn passed away on Sept. 19. A celebration of life ceremony will be held in Atlanta, Ga., for Abernathy on Monday (Sept. 23).
Abernathy was responsible for the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott’s business plan, the Post notes. Her husband, Ralph Abernathy, was seen as one of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest allies.
On Sunday (Sept. 22), Dr. Clyburn’s funeral was held and attended by presidential hopefuls Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In a statement to the Washington Times, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shared profound words about Clyburn’s professionalism and personality. “We all loved her so much. She was not only a gentle lady. She was a strategic thinker.”
In a statement published by CNN, Abernathy’s family praised the matriarch for her unwithering fight for equality. “Despite continued daily death threats against her family, she attended major mass meetings, taught voter education classes, hosted and housed Freedom Riders, and marched on Washington in 1963,” the statement outlines. “She fought for the mass integration of southern public school systems and lobbied for African-Americans and other people of color to have the right to attend the Metropolitan Opera in the South.”
Both activists made it their mission to enhance the quality of life for black people in the United States from housing conditions in Chicago in the late-60s to desegregating schools in the South.