“My parents were willing to die for what they believed in. Their commitment to truth was my tuning fork. What you speak you must live, or else do not speak it. That became my template for how to both behave and create in the world.”
– Alonzo King
June 19, or Juneteenth, commemorates the ending of enslavement in the United States and celebrates African American freedom and achievement. Today we honor Alonzo’s relatives who have fought to bring greater equality to our present reality. Let us draw inspiration from their pioneering efforts and experiences to fuel our momentum forwards towards truth and justice.
SLATER KING, Father
A graduate of Fisk University (B.A. Economics, 1946) and Oberlin College, Slater King founded a real estate and insurance brokerage firm in southwest Georgia which helped African American residents gain economic independence by means of home ownership.
Through his community work, Slater was at the heart of the development of the Albany Movement. Formed by local activists from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Ministerial Alliance, the Federation of Woman’s Clubs, and the Negro Voters League, the Albany Movement was the first mass movement in the modern civil rights era to have as its goal the complete desegregation of an entire city. Slater was initially elected vice president and soon after he assumed presidency. He was jailed numerous times for his civil rights actions, on more than one occasion sharing a cell with Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, who had come to Albany in support of the protests.
After the Albany Movement subsided and facilities were desegregated, Slater ran for Mayor of Albany in 1963. He later went on to join the efforts of Bob Swann, Charles Sherrod, Fay Bennett, Father Albert McKnight, and others who were working to break the pattern of land-holding in the South. Together they lay the foundation for the first community land trust. After a group trip to Israel to study moshavim and kibbutzim, Slater led the planning committee for New Communities, Inc. and was elected the organization’s board president upon its formal incorporation in March 1969. Sadly, his work was cut short upon a fatal car accident later that year, however some of his envisioned projects were completed posthumously and New Communities, Inc. lives on today.
Photos: From the Georgia Encyclopedia, courtesy of Cochran Studios/A. E. Jenkins Photography. Click to enlarge.
MARION KING, Stepmother
Marion King was a graduate of Spelman, a liberal arts college for women located in Atlanta. She received her law degree from Mercer University in the 1970s and served as an assistant attorney for Atlanta during the Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young administrations.
On July 23 1962, in the midst of the Albany civil rights movement, a pregnant Marion visited a Mitchell County jail to distribute supplies to imprisoned civil rights protesters. During the visit, while holding one of her young daughters with two of her other children at her side, she was attacked and beaten by two police guards resulting in the loss of the unborn baby. Her story is told in “Camilla”, a haunting song by Caroline Herring:
Marion’s assault sent shockwaves through the community and many called for retaliation. Alonzo remembers his stepmother addressing the crowd of supporters who amassed at their home – calmly, without a hint of bitterness, she spoke about the importance of love and nonviolence. Martin Luther King Jr. was in Albany at the time and expressed a similar message at a July 25 press conference.
Valencia King Nelson (Mother): Founder of AfriGeneas, a website that provides resources, leadership, promotion, and advocacy for the mutual development and use of a system of genealogy for researching African related ancestry.
Clennon Washington (C.W.) King, Sr. (Grandfather): Helped establish the local chapter of the NAACP in Albany, Georgia, as well as the Criterion Club, a social club and voters league. With the help of two of his sons (C.B. and Slater), he partnered with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to build and sustain SNCC’s Southwest Georgia project.
Clennon Washington (C.W.) King, Jr. (Uncle): Teacher, minister, and civil rights activist, he was declared insane and committed to an asylum after attempting to integrate University of Mississippi’s graduate program in history in 1958. Two years later, he ran for President as candidate of the Independent Afro-American Party, making him the first African American to run for office.
Chevene Bowers (C.B.) King (Uncle): A prominent civil rights attorney whose client list included the late Martin Luther King Jr. While visiting a Dougherty County jail in 1962, Sheriff Cull Campbell assaulted him with a cane. A photograph of a bloodied and bandaged C.B. made the first section of the New York Times and was circulated worldwide.
Preston King (Uncle): A civil rights activist, professor, lecturer, and political theorist who was exiled from the United States after being convicted of draft evasion in 1961. After 39 years, he was pardoned by President Clinton in 2000. Preston authored sixteen books, as well as over eighty articles and reviews on political philosophy.
RESOURCES TO LEARN MORE:
- Civil Rights Digital Library
- The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC): The King Family
- New Georgia Library: The Albany Movement
- Stanford University’s King Institute: The Albany Movement
- Preston King’s remarks on the family’s legacy (video)
- Book: Open Dem Cells: A Pictorial History of the Albany Movement by Mary Royal Jenkins
“People often think they need to do something big and bring about a huge cataclysmic change. The real way to make an impact is through doing little things every day with a lot of love, commitment, and integrity.”
– Alonzo King
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