On May 19, 2022, Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King helped support key partners in the civil rights movement Shernona in the 1960s · Xernona Clayton was interviewed at the offices of the Size Foundation in Atlanta. A key adviser to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who helped support the civil rights movement in the 1960s, said she was deeply saddened by hate crimes aimed at terrorizing people across the United States.
But Xernona Clayton has advocated for racial harmony since the movement’s inception and has refused to accept mass killings as routine.
“We have too much racial conflict,” Clayton, 91, told The Associated Press in an interview at her office in Atlanta. “It’s so stupid that we had this racism in the first place. Because none of us had any say in how we got here.”
“My mind always goes back to what Martin Luther King would have said,” she said. “He always said, ‘You know, we can love each other.’ He said, ‘There’s no reason why we can’t.’ It was hard for him to understand why we couldn’t.”
King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, recruited Clayton and her first husband, Jet magazine editor Edward Clayton, to help raise funds and publicity for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an Atlanta-based civil rights organization of which King is a first chairman. Xernona Clayton has been recruiting movie stars to host SCLC fundraisers and has been reluctant to leave Southern California.
But the two women bonded when Clayton organized Ms. King’s national singing tour. Soon she’s tending to bloody protesters and asking for bail for her friends Sidney (Poitier), Harry (Belafonte) and Bill (Cosby).
In 1966, Clayton learned that black doctors in Atlanta worked only one day a week at one institution, Grady Hospital. “Wednesday was the day Black people had babies,” she recalls. “So I organized the doctors and told them, ‘We can do something.’”
She found an administration ally who told her how much federal money was going to independent hospitals in Atlanta and brought doctors to Washington, which gave them a chance to visit the White House. President Lyndon Baines Johnson surprised them by acquiescing to this grassroots lobbying and insisting that hospitals across the country must be desegregated before they could receive Medicare funding.