Luther King's daughter dies

Douglas Martin

Douglas Martin

Yolanda Denise King, pictured, the eldest child of the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr, who melded her father's message of racial equality and nonviolence with her own calling as an actor and motivational speaker, died on Tuesday in Santa Monica, California. She was 51.

Steve Klein, a spokesman for the Martin Luther King Jnr Centre for Nonviolent Social Change, said the cause of death had not been determined but was probably related to cardio- pulmonary problems.

King was meeting her brother, Dexter King, at a friend's home when she collapsed and died.

King, who was born on November 17 1955, lived virtually her entire life in the maelstrom of the civil rights revolution that her father and her mother, Coretta Scott King, helped lead.

Besides her brother Dexter, Yolanda is survived by another brother, Martin Luther King II, and her sister, the Reverend Bernice King.

Yolanda King wrote and produced plays, gave speeches to groups that included primary school children and Fortune 500 corporations, and acted in movies.

With Elodia Tate, she edited a motivational book emphasising the importance of diversity.

Yolanda's consistent goal was to infect her work, including her films, with her family's deeper purposes.

She portrayed Rosa Parks, who sparked the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her bus seat in a mini-series, King (1978), and Betty Shabazz, the wife of Malcolm X, in Death of a Prophet (1981).

In 1999 she acted in Selma, Lord, Selma, about the civil rights march, and in 1996 appeared in Ghosts of Mississippi, about efforts to track down the killer of Medgar Evers, a civil rights leader.

She founded a dramatic group with Atallah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, the slain civil rights leader, and started a theatrical production company, Higher Ground Productions, dedicated to what she called personal empowerment.

She was also on the board of the King Centre.

Republican politician and civil rights veteran John Lewis said that being King's daughter was to carry an extra burden.

It began on January 30 1956 when Yolanda, nicknamed Yoki, was two months old and the family's house was bombed in the Montgomery bus boycott.

In 1958 Martin Luther narrowly escaped death when he was stabbed in a book store in Harlem.

To Yolanda, it seemed as if adults naturally went to jail occasionally, because all those she knew seemed to do that.

She graduated from Smith College and earned a master of fine arts degree from New York University. - New York Times

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