Coretta Scott King wasn’t just the wife of an American hero, she was an icon in her own right and her accomplishments deserve to be celebrated right alongside her husband’s.
The author, activist, civil rights leader, and singer was born in her parent’s home in Heiberger, Alabama on April 27th, 1927. Her grandmother was a former slave who acted as a midwife during her birth. Coretta’s mother and father came from humble beginnings, but her father instilled in her a passion for learning and hard work. At the age of 10, she began working on the family farm picking cotton. Coretta was strong for her age and enjoyed wrestling with the boys.
Before her teenage years, Coretta accidentally cut her cousin with an ax, after roughhousing with the boys. The accident caused some family drama and after a serious scolding from her mother, Coretta began to act more ladylike.
Education was big in the Scott household. All Scott’s needed to go to school. Schools in the south were still segregated, and the closest Black school was about 9 miles away. Fortunately for Coretta, her mother was the bus driver and was tasked with busing all the local Black teens to school. While in high school Coretta’s brain and voice began to shine. She became the leading soprano in the school’s chorus, played trumpet and piano, and graduated valedictorian of her class.
Coretta then attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio where she studied music and also found purpose in politics. She joined the school’s chapter of the NAACP after battling with the school board over wanting to finish her teaching requirements be teaching in the local public school. But as passionate as she was about politics, music continued to open doors for her. Coretta would get her degree in voice and music education. The piano and violin would be her choice of instruments.
How Coretta Scott Met Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1952, she won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. While on campus she was approached by a young man named Martin Luther King but wasn’t impressed. He had gotten her phone number from one of her friends, but Coretta had music as a focus and didn’t show King much interest. Eventually, Coretta’s friend convinced her to meet King and the two went out on a date. King was confident and a little arrogant, telling Coretta she had all the qualities he was looking for in a wife. But Coretta, who was surprised he was so short, didn’t see how King could know she was the one after they had just met. But they continued to see each other and two weeks after they met, Martin had told his mother he had met his wife. The two were married on June 18, 1953. Their marriage would forever change Coretta’s life, as she would have to put her dreams of being a classical singer on hold.
Coretta Scott King And The “Freedom Concerts”
Although the civil rights movement was created to fight to demand social change for Blacks in America, it still had the stench of men and most Black women of the movement were expected to stay home and take care of kids. Martin Luther King’s expectations were no different and Coretta gave up her ambitions for the cause.
In 1954 Martin Luther King Jr. became a full-time pastor and Coretta taught Sunday school and became a member of the church’s choir where she was able to show off her singing talents, but she always envisioned a career in the music industry. Instead of seeing her dreams completely fade away, she found a way to combine the life she had created with her husband with her passion for music. In 1964, Coretta would organize the “freedom concerts” to raise money for the cause. Each show consisted of singing, poetry, and lectures all demonstrating the history of the civil rights movement.
Coretta Scott King’s Book, Activism, And Life MLK
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. After his death, Coretta took a major leadership role in the civil rights movement. She also became active in the Women’s Movement, the opposition to apartheid, as well as LGBTQ rights.
She also fought and worked tirelessly to preserve the legacy of her husband Martin Luther King Jr. In 1968 she created The King Center, the official memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy and ideals of MLK. In 1969 she wrote her memoir entitled, “My Life, My Love, My Legacy.” That same year she established the Coretta Scott King Award for outstanding Black author/illustrator. She also campaigned for years to make MLK Day a federal holiday, finally coming to fruition in 1986.
The Legacy of Coretta Scott King
Although Coretta died on January 30, 2006, her legacy will live on forever. The Coretta Scott King Book Award is given to a Black author or illustrator of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. She has also received numerous awards after her death including the Golden Plate Award, the Gandhi Peace Prize, and also had Super Bowl XL dedicated to her and Rosa Parks. She was also inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Here are 5 Coretta Scott King Quotes To Live By
“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” – Coretta Scott King
“Revenge and retaliation always perpetuate the cycle of anger, fear and violence.” Coretta Scott King
“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.” Coretta Scott King
“To abandon affirmative action is to say there is nothing more to be done about discrimination.” Coretta Scott King
“Nonviolence would work today, it would work 2,000 years from now, it would work 5,000 years from now.” – Coretta Scott King