Coretta Scott King: In Appreciation; Remembering the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement

Article excerpt

There is no question about Mrs. King's position as first lady. She was a proud homemaker, mother and wife. While obviously excelling in her work at home, she became a leader in her own right. As founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, she sought to continue the work of Dr. King and pass on his legacy to succeeding generations. While passing on MLK's legacy, her own legacy was greatly enhanced. So we have known her as devoted mother and wife, but her legacy will also include the stamp of leader and innovator.


Coretta Scott was born April 27, 1927 in Heiberger, (Perry County) Alabama. Her father was a truck farmer who challenged the stereotype of Black inferiority. He refused to sell the family's successful farm and subsequently their home was burned to the ground. Harassment of Black families who chose to "get out of their place" and question the status quo was not unusual. The Scott family could be so categorized. Coretta finished high school in 1945 and attended Antioch College in Ohio. Antioch was a noted white liberal institution that encouraged equity and justice for Black people. She received the Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and music. In 1951, Coretta was attending the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston when she met an aspiring young doctoral candidate in attendance at Boston University. She married Martin Luther King Jr. on June 18, 1953. They moved to Montgomery in 1954, and history showered down upon them.

Although Coretta was a celebrated vocalist, her most difficult and most rewarding accomplishment was raising four beautiful children. While being a mother, homemaker and wife, she did not disappear from her career, or from the Movement. She was creative enough to develop methods and resources that contributed to the building of the Movement.

Although usually in the background, Mrs. King traveled extensively. She produced several "Freedom Concerts," where she used her talents and the talents of others to raise funds for SCLC. She went to Ghana for its Independence celebrations in 1957. She traveled to India, where Dr. King spoke on his use of nonviolent action in the American Civil Rights Movement, and she sang spirituals that were warmly received. She traveled to Oslo, Norway when Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize. Through these journeys, she developed an international perspective on life.

After Dr. King's assassination, she stepped onstage in her own right, and led the Memphis sanitation workers in their protest against oppressive working conditions. …