ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Surrounded by family and friends, civil rights foot solider Juanita Abernathy passed away Thursday afternoon. She was 89-years-old.
Abernathy was married to Civil Rights icon Ralph David Abernathy, but she was by no means in the shadow of her husband. She was fearless, helping to organize and rally African Americans during the movement.
“We’re holding up,” said Abernathy’s daughter Juandalynn Ralpheda Abernathy. “We took it, of course, very hard but we’re holding up.”
“We knew that our mother was a shaker and a mover because she inspired our dad, she inspired uncle Martin,” said Donzaleigh Abernathy, another daughter.
Abernathy was a true leader and a driving force in the civil rights movement. Her daughters spent Friday afternoon reminiscing on both the good and bad times, which are now marked in history.
“Daddy and uncle Martin were always blown away,” said Donzaleigh. “Uncle Martin was always like, ‘I wonder what Juan has to say,’ because she had fire in her belly. And she decided when they bombed her house, she decided that if she survived that night, she decided that she could survive anything.”
Abernathy was there for all the pivotal civil rights moments, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Selma to Montgomery March and the March on Washington. She helped establish the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Ambassador Andrew Young said she pushed the men to fight harder.
“Juanita Abernathy gave her life in the service of this nation and of people and of the least of these, God’s children.”
C.T. Vivian, another leader in the movement, said women like Abernathy were selfless and committed to the cause.
“They backed their husbands and they could have said ‘why are you spending all your time?’ That was not their idea. That was not their idea. Their idea was to be a part of [it].”
“My mother did so many things that a lot of people don’t even realize that she did,” Juandalynn. “She was awesome. She was my hero.”
Abernathy was on Marta’s Board of Directors and involved in various other organizations. She leaves behind her family, friends and a legacy that will continue to inspire.