Martin Luther King’s Daughter, Yolanda, Has Died

Yolanda Denise King was only 51 years old. The cause of her death is not known.

From the Associated Press:

Yolanda King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest child who pursued her father’s dream of racial harmony through drama and motivational speaking, has died. She was 51.

King died late Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif., said Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center. The family did not know the cause of death, but relatives think it might have been a heart problem, he said.


Yolanda Denise King, daughter of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, speaks on the burden of stroke and the experiences regarding her mother’s stroke, at a briefing sponsored by the American Stroke Association and the Congressional Black Caucus, Tuesday, May 23, 2006 on Capitol Hill. King, daughter and eldest child of civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has died, said Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center. King died late Tuesday May 15, 2007 in Santa Monica, Calif., at age 51. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

“She was an actress, author, producer, advocate for peace and nonviolence, who was known and loved for her motivational and inspirational contributions to society,” the King family said in a statement.

Born on Nov. 17, 1955, in Montgomery, Ala., Yolanda Denise King was just an infant when her home was bombed amid the turbulent civil rights era.

She became an actress, ran a production company and appeared in numerous films, including “Ghosts of Mississippi,” and as Rosa Parks in the 1978 miniseries “King.”

“Yolanda was lovely. She wore the mantle of princess, and she wore it with dignity and charm,” said the Rev. Joseph Lowery, One of her father’s close aides in the civil rights movement. “She was a warm and gentle person and was thoroughly committed to the movement and found her own means of expressing that commitment through drama.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton said he expressed his condolences to her brother Martin Luther King III on Wednesday. Sharpton said Yolanda King was a “torch bearer for her parents and a committed activist in her own right.”

“Yolanda never wavered from a commitment to nonviolent social change and justice for all,” he said. “She was the first daughter of the civil rights movement and never shamed her parents or her co-activists.”

Yolanda King founded and led Higher Ground Productions, billed as a “gateway for inner peace, unity and global transformation.” On her company’s Web site, she described her mission as encouraging personal growth and positive social change.

She was also an author and a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — which her father co-founded in 1957 — and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The flag at The King Center, where she was a board member, flew at half-staff on Wednesday.

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