Abernathy was born in Montgomery, Alabama and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia during the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. The Abernathy Children along with the King children integrated Spring Street Elementary School and began Mass Integration in the South. Abernathy briefly attended the Northside High School for the Performing Arts, before attended and graduated from the George School, a Quaker Prep School in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Her father was Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, Co-Founder of the American Civil Rights Movement and an influential civil rights leader. She was able to join her father, her mother Juanita Jones Abernathy and witness first-hand many significant events of the Civil Rights Movement. Her family was very close to that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., another prominent figure of the Civil Rights Movement. The Abernathy and King children went to school together, performed extracurricular activities together, spent Sunday Dinners together, vacations and various holidays together. According to Abernathy herself, children from both families would hold performances for their parents on these occasions with Yolanda King, one of King's daughter, acting as the director and Dr. King filming the performances. Abernathy acknowledges that "that's really when [she] started acting."
After graduating from Emerson College in Boston, Abernathy moved to New York. She landed her first job after auditioning for a role with the Off Off Broadway production. Since then, Abernathy has a played major roles in many different movies and T.V. series. One of her more well-known roles is in the historical drama "Gods and Generals," in which she portrays a slave by the name of Martha. Although the film itself was not critically well-received, Abernathy was praised for her part. One reviewer states that "Abernathy's image of Martha combines strength with glamour." She starred for four years as a Series Regular on Lifetime's "Any Day Now. As a child of the South, Abernathy was heavily influenced by the civil rights movement. As a result, she was able to connect with the role on a personal level.