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MLK's goddaughter hoping to inspire next generation

MLK's goddaughter hoping to inspire next generation
MLK's goddaughter hoping to inspire next generation 03:52

NEWTOWN, Pa. (CBS) -- To us - they were civil rights icons.

But to Donzaleigh Abernathy, Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were dad and Uncle Martin.

"He was a man, he was an uncle, he was a godfather, he was dad's best friend," she said.

It's a side of the civil rights movement many people never knew. She showed us pictures of her family including several of her father with Dr. King.

"He knew how to find the camera. He always knew how to find a camera and how to look good," she said.

Now, Donzaleigh, one of the daughters of the civil rights movement, is using her story to inspire the next generation of change-makers.

"There was a public face to Uncle Martin, but the private man was funny. He was so humorous. And he loved to entertain," she said.

Rev. Ralph Abernathy (left) and Martin Luther King Jr. Abernathy was a mentor to King and made him the godfather of his daughter, Donzaleigh Abernathy.

Her father, Rev. Ralph Abernathy was King's mentor. Together, the close friends helped build what would become America's civil rights movement.

"He was attached to my dad's hip. So they did everything together," Donzaleigh said.

Recently, Abernathy spoke with students at George School in Newtown, Bucks County, where back in the 1970s she was a student. She wanted to share her message with the current generation.

"Nonviolence was a way of life. It wasn't just some ideology," she said.

But Abernathy's family often faced the ugly stings of racism.

Her mother was pregnant with her when the Ku Klux Klan bombed their home in Montgomery, Alabama while her father was away.

"And literally when I came out, I just trembled," Donzaleigh said. "And my mother said that I trembled for six months."

"I'm alive to let people know that I was born under Jim Crow segregation, I was born in a segregated hospital," she added.

Abernathy grew up seeing firsthand the sacrifices her friends and loved ones made, sometimes paying with their lives.

Here she is in 1965 as her dad and Dr. King led the famous march from Selma to Montgomery.

Donzaleigh Abernathy was in the famous march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

"I cannot believe that I was blessed enough to grow up with them," Donzaleigh said.

And she's made it her mission -- to continue her father's and Dr. King's legacies.

"The thing is, we were about love. But now today, there's this rise of hate, intolerance, and a desire to silence, and to dumb down America, and a desire to make our young children not learn this history. But when you do that, you cripple the next generation," she said.

Reminding ourselves and also educating others on our roots and how far we've come as a people and as a community, is super important," George School student Krishell Williams said.

"It just fills me with this inspiration to be able to create change," student Finn Nicolois said.

Abernathy says that change starts with making sure history is not forgotten.

"I want them to understand that they will have an important role to play in the future and that they have to stand up and think for themselves, and think outside the box," she said.

Abernathy said George School's Quaker roots, and its history with abolitionists was why she left Alabama to go to school in Bucks County.

Her dad and Dr. King made multiple stops in Philadelphia in their fight for equal rights.

Rev. Abernathy passed away in 1990, but his daughter is making sure his story is kept alive.

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