Making Their Own Way Second generation: The sons and daughters of the leaders of the '60s civil rights generation, the men and women with names like King, Abernathy, Jackson and Young, are coming into their own.


His words don't rhyme, his cadences don't echo the Baptist pulpit and his crescendoes don't shiver the timbers in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is Jesse Louis Jackson Jr., who now begins making his own name in American politics.

With his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, looking on, Jesse Jr. took to the House floor last month for his first speech as a newly sworn-in member of Congress.

"We must expand the Rainbow spirit across the land," declared the 30-year-old Democrat from Illinois. "We must let a new generation arise."

A new generation indeed. The children of the civil rights giants of the 1960s have come of age as politicians and playwrights, lawyers and opera singers, engineers and entrepreneurs. Some have sought the political spotlight, others have shunned it. All have known both the burdens and blessings of growing up as a King, an Abernathy, a Young or a Bond.

While their fathers' names opened many doors for them, it also created expectations that were difficult to handle. From such lofty beginnings, there is always room to fall, and with so many people watching.

Ralph David Abernathy III, a 36-year-old Georgia state senator, remembers when he was elected president of the freshman class at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. Two weeks into his term he started hearing rumors that students were not happy with his performance in office. There was talk of getting rid of him. He wasn't doing enough, they thought.

Not doing enough as president of the freshman class? What was he supposed to be doing?

"I think they thought me being my father's son, I was supposed to walk on water," says Mr. Abernathy, whose late father assumed the presidency of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. He died in 1990.

Mr. Abernathy was supposed to be in Benedict College getting away from home in Atlanta, where everyone knew him and his father. But when your name is Ralph David Abernathy III it's not so easy to emerge from the shadow. He went home and finished college at Morehouse, where his father had already received an honorary doctor of divinity degree.

That time right after college, he says, "that was the pressure time. People were watching me."

He became an entrepreneur in real estate and health care. But the man whose father had called him "a born politician" always felt pulled to public office. At 29 he was elected to the state House of Representatives, four years later to the state Senate.

His two older sisters were also drawn to the public stage, though not as politicians. Juandalynn Abernathy, 39, is an opera lyric soprano who has been touring the world for 15 years and now lives in Germany. Donzaleigh Abernathy, 37, is an actress living in Los Angeles and next month will start filming a television movie opposite Natalie Cole. The youngest Abernathy, Kwame, 23, recently graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts and plans to enter law school.

Michael Julian Bond, 29, a member of the Atlanta City Council, also had an early introduction to politics. He was 5 or 6 years old when he was pressed into service stuffing envelopes for the congressional campaign of Andrew Young, a friend of his father, Julian Bond, the former Georgia state representative and senator who co-founded the Student Non violent Coordinating Committee in 1960. Michael caught the political bug at home and it held.

"It always seemed to be very exciting," says Michael, who was elected to the city council in 1993, a year after running unsuccessfully for the state House of Representatives.

Father's help

Before he entered politics, Michael and his older brother, Horace Mann Bond, got help from their influential father in landing jobs with the Atlanta Department of Corrections. Horace still works there as training coordinator.

Asked why he chose that line of work, Horace Mann says "Honestly speaking? Money."

He says he has little interest in politics because he'd be uneasy having his livelihood depend upon other people's votes. Besides, as a kid he remembers not the excitement of politics, but how often the work took his father away.

"I had a lot of resentment toward that line of work," he says.

The other Bond children have also avoided public life. Jeffrey Alvin, 27, is a stockbroker in Atlanta; Phyllis Jane, 33, manages a telemarketing company in California; Julia Louise, 26, is a retail clerk in Atlanta.

Ask Andrew J. Young III about politics and the answers are not printable in a family newspaper. He's also not particularly keen on being known as the son of such a famous father. Andrew J. Young, now director of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, was a staff member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and worked closely with Dr. King before he became a Georgia congressman, then United Nations ambassador, then mayor of Atlanta.

"I would just as soon he worked for the Post Office," says Andrew III, who is 22 and runs a company in Atlanta that distributes vitamin and mineral supplements. "People wanted me first or second grade to be the class leader. I didn't want to be the class leader."

Through his teens in Atlanta, he remembers people were always stopping him on the street or the shopping mall, wanting to talk about his father and about politics. He got sick of it.

His 40-year-old sister, Andrea Young, said when she was in Swarthmore College, Andrew Young was a congressman. But she would tell people her father was a minister in Georgia.

"I didn't want people to make judgments on me because of his work," says Ms. Young, a graduate of Georgetown University Law School who lives in Washington and is now helping Mr. Young write a book about the civil rights movement. "It's treacherous trying to explain to people your connection to a famous person. You don't know how they'll react."

But Ms. Young, who has worked on the staffs of U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, is not complaining. She knows that her family has created for her a circle of associations that has been very helpful in her career.

Ms. Young might not have become a lawyer had she not met Constance Motley, a lawyer for the NAACP Defense Fund who often came to meetings at her home in Atlanta when she was a child. Ms. Motley -- a rare women of authority in a movement dominated by male members of the clergy -- was an inspiration, she says.

Her 38-year-old sister, Lisa Alston, took her career inspiration from a high school math teacher and became an electrical engineer, a decision she says that "shocked and amazed" her parents. Their youngest sister, Paula Young Shelton, 34, is an elementary school teacher in Washington. A number of the children say they have felt some pressure from standing on the edges of the public spotlight, to be careful not to do anything to embarrass the family. The glare has been especially strong for the four children of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is celebrated as a national holiday today.

Yolanda King, 40, is an actress and teaches drama at Fordham University in the Bronx. Bernice King, 32, is assistant pastor at Greater Rising Star Baptist Church in Atlanta. Dexter, 35, is president of the Martin Luther King Center, a non-profit educational institution in Atlanta.

The most public of the King children is Martin Luther King III, 38, who lectures and serves on the board of the King Center. Mr. King, who declined to be interviewed for this story, was a member of the Fulton County Commission from 1986 to 1993. He lost a high-profile race for commission chairman in 1993 after the IRS placed liens on him for failing to pay more than $200,000 in income taxes. He eventually paid the taxes owed.

Unfavorable publicity

Other members of the extended civil rights family have also experienced some unfavorable exposure in the public eye.

Andrew Young III was arrested for drunk driving in Washington in November 1991 and agreed to enroll in a traffic safety program rather than challenge the arrest. The previous September, he had been stopped by Washington police while driving near Howard University, where he was a freshman. He claimed he was pulled out of his car and beaten without provocation by three officers, who were ultimately tried and acquitted of assault charges. The police charged Andrew with disorderly conduct, which was later dropped.

And Qubilah Shabazz, 35, one of six daughters of Malcolm X, was accused by the federal government last year of trying to arrange the murder of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who some suspect of complicity in her father's killing in 1965. The government agreed to drop the indictment in two years if Ms. Shabazz completes a psychiatric and chemical dependency program, gets a job or goes to school. Her lawyer, Larry Leventhal, of Minneapolis, says she is working for a radio station in Texas.

Of all the movement's children, it is Jesse Jackson Jr. who has made the biggest national splash so far, becoming the first of them to reach Washington as an elected official. He brings with him a law degree, a master's in theology and experience as national field director for his father's Operation PUSH. But he's .. been accused of having little to offer voters besides a big name.

"If he was named Jesse Smith, he wouldn't even be a blip on the screen," Illinois state Sen. Emil Jones Jr., the closest of Jesse Jr.'s five Democratic primary opponents, told the Chicago Tribune.

Despite his attacks, Mr. Jones stayed home in Chicago; Jesse Jr., the second oldest of Jesse Sr. and Jacqueline's five children, went to Capitol Hill as the new congressman from Illinois' 2nd Congressional District.

"I want to defend the defenseless," Jesse Jr. says in his speech on the House floor. "I want them to dream again and stop recycling nightmares. We must choose schools instead of jails for our future. Let the children dream. Let the seniors dream again. Let them hope. Let them believe. Revive their spirits. Let ,, all of us hope."

The speech ends, all rise and applaud. In the members' family gallery stands the Rev. Jesse Jackson, applauding, smiling, looking down at his son, watching the rise of a new generation.

Minutes after the speech, Jesse Jr., his wife, parents and siblings step into a reception room next to House Speaker Newt Gingrich's office, where the media pack wait for a photo opportunity of the swearing in. A television reporter in the front pipes up with the inevitable question.

"The downside risks are pretty high," says the reporter, "what about all the expectations?"

"There's nowhere to go but up," says Jesse Jr. And he smiles with great confidence.

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