Interview with Rev. Ralph Abernathy

I want you to tell us about the first meeting at the Holt Street Baptist Church, about E.D. Nixon's role setting it up, who came, and the feelings at that meeting.

Rev. Ralph Abernathy:

Well, I would like to make it crystal clear at the Holt Street Baptist Church on December 5, 1955, E.D. Nixon did not set up that meeting. Yours truly, Ralph David Abernathy, set up that meeting. That meeting was filled with thousands of people, and on the outside of the church there was approximately five thousand people. And I decided that I would go and ride with Martin Luther King, Jr., who had been elected as our leader, president of the Montgomery Improvement Association. And I had named the organization that afternoon in a previous meeting, and we were the leaders of the movement. And as we drew near the Holt Street Baptist Church, Holt Street will seat less than a thousand persons, and, but they were standing in the aisles and everything. And when we made our way through the crowd by telling them who we were, and people moved back and let us go through, and we walked into the church, and they stood and clapped, and yelled and applauded for fifteen minutes. I don't know how the word had reached the church, but they knew that we were their leaders. They knew that Ralph David Abernathy and Martin Luther King were the leaders of the movement. And I had the role of choosing the participants for the program, because I was elected the program director in the prior three o'clock meeting where Dr. King had been elected as the president of our newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association. And everybody had a cold, and everybody had difficulties reading the Bible, and everybody had other responsibilities, but when we got there and we were all together in that church with five thousand people standing on the outside, the men and women came to me and started to say, I will be glad to read the Scriptures, I will be glad to pray the prayer, do you still need me and want me? I will be glad to do anything. The fear left. The fear that had shackled us across the years all left suddenly when we were in that church together.**