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And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography Hardcover – November, 1991

23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Abernathy's autobiographical account of the birth and struggles of the civil rights movement is inspirational and deeply moving. With Martin Luther King Jr., his closest colleague, he helped organize the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and the 1965 march in Selma, Ala.; he and King went north to Chicago in 1966, where they battled Mayor Richard Daley and found racism as endemic and deep-rooted as in the South. He cradled King in his arms when the latter was assassinated in Memphis. Son of a stern, righth- ous farmer father, Abernathy became a Baptist pastor after fighting in WW II with a segregated platoon. In a voice at once down-to-earth and eloquent, he recounts protests, jailings and bombings in Birmingham, St. Augustine, Washington, Charleston and elsewhere. He defends his support of Reagan's 1980 presidential bid, as well as his support, in the next two elections, for Jesse Jackson. Reading this engrossing, powerful memoir-as-history will force white Americans to confront the legacy of racism. Abernathy conveys a sense of how the civil rights movement discovered its tactics and direction in response to individual situations. Photos.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

One opens the autobiography of Martin Luther King's closest associate and friend with excitement. Unfortunately, Abernathy makes slight contribution to what we know already about Montgomery, Selma, and the several other great episodes of the civil rights era upon which he focuses, and he entirely omits others, such as the 1963 March on Washington. Nor does he attempt to lure readers with intimate disclosures. Regarding political rivalry and sexual pastimes among movement leaders he is, on the whole, reticent. He is more interesting in the account of his 1980 endorsement (now regretted) of Ronald Reagan. When King chose Abernathy as his successor, he lacked power to transfer the stature he had won in civil-rights leadership, and Abernathy has always suffered in comparison. This autobiography, awkwardly and incompletely told, will not adjust his historical standing. Necessary only for collections in civil rights.
- Robert F. Nardini, N. Chichester, N . H .
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 638 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (November 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060161922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060161927
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ralph Abernathy wrote his life's story warts and all. He also spoke honestly about his dear friend, Doc and his private life. Doc was Martin Luther King Jr. and a lot of people reacted almost violently to the revelations in the book. Abernathy was called a traitor, a Judas and an Uncle Tom. He was also accused of being senile or insane with jealousy of Dr. King's memory. Sadly, with all the name calling people forgot or ignored the fact that it's a good autobiography and a valuable edition to the historical record of the Civil Rights movement.
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Andre M. on July 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When this first came out around 1990, stupid rumors abounded that Dr.King's right-hand-man and surrogate brother had written a sleazy text about Dr. King's sex life. This bunch of hogwash and the cruel responses by people who beleived the hype drove Dr. Abernathy to his grave! This is actually a very good book filled with interesting anecdotes about Dr. Abernathy's years as a soldier in the Civil Rights movement. However, he pulls no punches regarding the infighting that destroyed what was left of the movement after Dr. King's death. This is an important historical memoir by one who was certainly there.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Superwoman AJ VINE VOICE on April 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm so glad I read this book, but am sorry it took me more than a decade to learn that Dr. Abernathy hadn't "sold out" Martin Luther King as was reported in the media when this book was first published. Unfortunately, Dr. Abernathy died before he knew all of black America hadn't turned on him. He told a truthful story of a movement led by strong, yet very "human" men and women. None of us are without our weaknesses, but those weaknesses do not define the total of who we are. Just as Dr. Abernathy's depiction of the weaknesses in himself and in Dr. King don't define the whole tone of this book. I'm glad I read it, and I shared it with my mother who also read it from cover to cover with relish. I appreciate the MLK's and the Ralph David Abernathy's who made such a sacrifice so I could have the rights of every other human being living in the United States.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bob Hoskins VINE VOICE on May 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
(Hardback Version)
Ralph David Abernathy is the lesser known architect and protagonist of the Civil Rights movement of the 60's. Martin Luther King's right hand man and successor after King's death, Abernathy was at the front of all the civil right's battles and victories.

This is a thick book, some 620 pages. The book details all the civil rights battles of the 60's including Montgomery, Atlanta, Albany, Birmingham, Selma, Chicago and more. Going into each crusade for equal rights for blacks the policy was always none violence. In the face of overwhelming odds from local police forces with water canons, night sticks and dogs, the marchers were taught to kneel and pray and, to offer no resistance to arrest. If one march didn't work, their numbers would swell and they would march again. Amazing resolve.

The Jim Crow segregation laws that plagued the Southern States eventually started the movement in all earnest after the Rosa Parks incident on a Montgomery, AL bus. Though hers was not the first such incident, hers is the most remembered. Abernathy, deeply religious formed the Civil rights movement along with a very charismatic individual named Martin Luther King and, along with thinking alike, they both were willing to put themselves in danger both physically and institutionally to bring attention and affect change for America's black population.

Such a fantastic story of struggle and total devotion to human rights that, sadly, aren't repeated too often today. Each crusade brought a new strategy but, none violence was always paramount. As the years rolled on, new blood coming into the movement wanted to use violence but Abernathy and King held firm.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Victoria M. Wall on September 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ralph David Abernathy gave a beautiful window into the realities of America's struggles with racism. He and Martin Luther King's unique experiences all over America are scintillating. Having been raised by a military father all over America- a few places and cultures I had observed were in this book. Military housing was integrated 5 years before I was born, so my first experiences of obvious racism were when I was a young adult in civilain environments. I read this as it was being promoted, to interview Abernathy, for the local TV station in Detroit (WB). We received the book a few days before promotion/interview was scheduled. I started to brief "And the Walls Came Tumbling Down" - I could not put it down until I finished it in 36 hours. There was outrage in many communities over this book. Abernathy canceled his tour to Detroit, then cancelled totally. Soon died of a heart attack. I was greatly saddened this book did not become embraced more fully by the African American community. I have gifted this book a few times, and will continue to share with those with enough character to read 600+ pages! Mr. Abernathy's writing is a powerful diamond on the crown of struggles for goodness. Every day is a war of good against evil, 'And the Walls Came Tumbling Down' inspires those on front lines of goodness overcoming evil. Ralph David Abernathy was truly a holy man for the 20th century.
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