Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Monday, January 20, 2020 

Donzaleigh Abernathy photoThe annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lectures and Discussion which emphasizes the continuing struggle for civil rights. 

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture
Growing up with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lecture by Donzaleigh Abernathy
Christ Chapel at Gustavus
This year’s lecture, provided by the Donzaleigh Abernathy, featured her personal reflections on watching the civil rights movement unfold and the ongoing work for justice. 
The morning lecture was archived.


Critical Dialogues
Critical dialogues happened across campus by building following the lecture. These were facilitated discussions on how to build authentic community across racial, ethnic, national, socio-economic and religious divides. Specific times and locations are listed below. People were encouraged to sign-up for the discussion happening in the building where they work or spend time. However, all sessions were open to anyone.

Community Celebration
5:30-7:30 p.m.
Centennial Student Union Ballroom at Minnesota State University Mankato
Reception, address by Donzaleigh Abernathy, and presentation of the 2020 Pathfinder Award

These events were sponsored by the Gustavus Diversity Center, Gustavus Office of the Chaplains, Gustavus Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies Program, Gustavus Office of the President, Gustavus Office of Marketing and Communication, Mankato MLK Committee, and Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Donzaleigh Abernathy
Donzaleigh Abernathy is the youngest daughter of the American civil rights movement co-founder Rev. Dr. Ralph David and Mrs. Juanita Jones Abernathy. She was born in the midst of the civil rights movement as her father and his best friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. established the nonviolent social movement which changed the course of American history.

Her life began with the bombing of her parents’ home and her father’s First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. She and her siblings witnessed and participated in all of the major civil rights movements and marches, including the Freedom Riders, the March On Washington, the Selma to Montgomery March for “The Right to Vote” and the Chicago Housing Demonstrations. The Abernathy and King children integrated Spring Street Elementary School which led to mass integration of schools in the South in 1965. From her home, she witnessed Martin Luther King and her Father make integral decisions that helped create American laws such as the Civil Rights Bill, the Public Accommodations Act, the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act.

After Dr. King’s death, she participated as her father led the Poor Peoples Campaign, introduced the idea and lobby Congress for the creation of the National Food Stamp Program, the Free Meal Program for Low Income Children in public schools, the creation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday and making hunger in America a national agenda with his protest the Apollo 11 Moon launch. As a child, she joined her parents and others in lobbying for the creation of Affirmative Action, which would finally allowed minorities at least one tenth of the opportunities for employment and education.

In 2004, she authored, Partners To History, Martin Luther King, Ralph David Abernathy and the Civil Rights Movement, which was nominated as one of the “Best Books for Young Adults” by the American Library Association. She was a contributing author to the Smithsonian Institute’s book In the Spirit of Martin. Her play “Birmingham Sunday” is a winner of the Tanne Foundation Award. 

She has had an active career in acting including being a leading actor in Warner Bros’ Civil War epic, “GODS and GENERALS.” She starred as the leading lady in the Emmy and Golden Globe Award winning HBO film, “DON KING - ONLY IN AMERICA.” She starred in the Emmy and Golden Globe winning “MISS EVERS BOYS,” in NBC’s Golden Globe nominated “THE TEMPEST,” and NBC’s Directors Guild of America Award winning movie, “MURDER IN MISSISSIPPI.” With her husband Dar Dixon, she created, directed and produced the documentary “Saint Francis Medical Center.” For the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus at the National Black Arts Festival, she wrote and starred in Billy Strayhorne’s “Lush Life.” She wrote, directed and starred in “The Women of Niagara” for the National Park Service’s Harper’s Ferry Centennial Celebration of the Niagara Movement and WEB DuBois. For the University of Utah at Park City and the grandson of John Brown, she wrote and performed with Dar Dixon, “John Brown - The Abolitionist.” 

In 1994, she became a founding trustee of the New Visions Foundation/Coalition for Engaged Education which created New Roads Schools of Santa Monica and has served as VP of the Board of Trustees. She was a spokesperson for the CDC’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Program and for Amnesty International. She currently volunteers for juveniles in the Los Angeles County justice system.