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Power Struggle In Civil Rights Group Continues


NPR's Kathy Lohr has the story.

KATHY LOHR: King said the organization refused to respect her leadership by delaying a response to her recommendations about the position and ignoring her questions about the job description.

BERNICE KING: I believe that I could only be effective if it were an executive-driven organization, and I did not have a desire to be merely a figurehead leader.

ANDRA GILLESPIE: It's not a surprise that she would come to that decision.

LOHR: Professor Gillespie says the ongoing dissension made it impossible for Bernice King to succeed.

GILLESPIE: There is this much division within the organization now, and she doesn't think that she really has the votes or the mandate to be able to carry out her own vision within the organization. Then it probably makes sense in her estimation to just cut her losses and let the organization handle its division right now.

LOHR: Clayborne Carson is a history professor at Stanford University and head of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. He says Bernice King leaves the SCLC with her reputation intact.

CLAYBORNE CARSON: No one person can turn around an organization that has so many problems. You know, a number of people have tried, and all of them have come up against a lot of severe problems.

LOHR: But Carson says the decision doesn't bode well for the future of the SCLC, an organization trying to figure out how to survive.

CARSON: There really is a lack of clear understanding about what the organization should be doing and how it should confront the problems of the 21st century.

LOHR: Some experts suggest the SCLC has been on journey to redefine itself for 40 years, but has yet to create a clear mission and find a way to help people as it did during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. Again, Andra Gillespie at Emory.

GILLESPIE: Sometimes, it makes sense to kind of know when to fold. And this may be the moment at which the SCLC ceases to exist.

LOHR: Bernice King did not say that as she walked away today. But she did say the group's members and leaders will have to figure it out.

KING: I would hope that they are able to rebound and keep moving. I, you know, I think they certainly have the capacity to do that.

LOHR: Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.



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Whether covering the manhunt and eventual capture of Eric Robert Rudolph in the mountains of North Carolina, the remnants of the Oklahoma City federal building with its twisted metal frame and shattered glass, flood-ravaged Midwestern communities, or the terrorist bombings across the country, including the blast that exploded in Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta, correspondent Kathy Lohr has been at the heart of stories all across the nation.