Providence, R.I. — President Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party, increasingly accused of failing to address racism, poverty, and urban decline, have picked up a strong vote of confidence from one of the nation's foremost black leaders, Monitor correspondent Rushworth M. Kidder reports.
The Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, speaking at Brown University Wednesday, praised the President as ''a very warm individual'' who ''listens,''
and called the GOP ''my newfound party.'' He added that he was ''praying'' over whether or not to affiliate himself with it.
The Atlanta preacher and civil rights activist, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and who has been called ''the president of the poor,'' distanced himself from Mr. Reagan on a number of specific issues. Mr. Abernathy opposes the 5-cent gasoline tax, wants lower defense spending, distrusts the President's ''new federalism'' policy, and calls the nationwide trend toward political conservatism ''frightening.''
Nevertheless, he has high praise for the Republicans' ''efforts to destroy the welfare mentality that has gripped the black community.'' And he says blacks are ready to welcome ''overtures'' from the GOP.