Unsung Civil Rights Hero - Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott was born on April 27, 1927, in Heiberger, Alabama. She was the second of three children born to Obediah Scott, an enterprising entrepreneur, and Bernice (McMurray) Scott.
In 1945, young Coretta enrolled at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, pursuing majors in music and education. In 1949 she gave her first solo concert.
It was right about this time that Ms. Scott fought a loosing battle against racial discrimination, when she sought to do her education practicum at one of the local public schools. In spite of her vociferous protests, which she took all the way to the college president, she was denied an opportunity to teach at the schools she desired.
It was 1951 that Ms. Scott crossed paths with Mr. King, Jr. Giving up on her teaching career, Ms. Scott had chosen to become a professional singer and enrolled at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston on a full scholarship in pursuit of a degree in voice.
On June 18, 1953, Coretta Scott married Martin Luther King, Jr. Reverend King, Sr. officiated at the wedding ceremony. Over the next ten years, the couple welcomed four children into their family: Yolanda Denise (November 17, 1955), Martin Luther III (October 23, 1957), Dexter Scott (January 30, 1961) and Bernice Albertine (March 28, 1963).
In 1956, after her first child was not even a year old, the new Mrs. King stood by her husband’s side as the Montgomery bus boycott began. She did not waver in her support and conviction, even when her house was bombed. On the contrary, she was seen marching next to Rev. King, Jr. and even giving speeches when he was unable to do so.
In her own right, Mrs. King acted as a delegate of Women's Strike for Peace at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva in 1962.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was murdered by a bullet from the gun of one James Earl Ray, as he was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. On April 8, 1968 it was clear that Mrs. King was continuing her and her husband’s work: she marched at the head of 50,000 who demonstrated in Memphis.
Mrs. Coretta Scott King’s other accomplishments
- spoke/preached at St. Paul's Cathedral in England
- created, planned, and sought funding for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta
- established in 1969 the annual Coretta Scott King Award to honor African American authors of outstanding educational writings
- established in 1979 an additional Award to honor African American illustrators
- assured recognition for the civil rights movement by seeing her late husband’s birthday become a national holiday
- co-chaired the Full Employment Action Council, instituted the Black Leadership Forum, the National Black Coalition for Voter Participation and the Black Leadership Roundtable
- sought to bring out the truth of her husband’s assassination by establishing that Ray did not act alone in the commission of the murder, but was instead part of a larger conspiracy; because of the materials she had gathered over the years, a 1999 Tennessee jury found that the assassination was the result of a conspiracy, not of the action of a lone killer
Most recently, Mrs. King was heard speaking out against capital punishment and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. She further supports lesbian/gay rights causes and is an ardent supporter of AIDS/HIV education and prevention.
While Dr. King is an undisputed hero of the movement, excelling in the sincerity of his conviction, and his unwillingness to compromise in matters of non-violence, Mrs. King is a hero in her own right. Sadly, even though she has received many honors, most “main-stream” Americans do not know of her accomplishments, her convictions, and her tireless work on behalf of a free and equal society.
Please take a look at your host’s book recommendation. This book makes a great gift for the student in your house or the historic minded friend or family member.
Mrs. King died on Tuesday, 01-31-06, at the Santa Monica Health Institute, which is located in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. The cause of death is cited to be respiratory failure. Mrs. King visited the clinic because of her battle against advanced stage ovarian cancer as well as a serious stroke and heart attack from which she was recuperating since August of 2005.
If you say a prayer tonight, please remember her and her husband and their monumental contributions to our society as we know and appreciate it today.
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