Coretta Scott King
Civil Rights activist Coretta Scott King was born on April 27, 1927, in Perry County, Alabama. She said that she was determined, even in girlhood, to do something positive for the cause of human rights.
Like many women in history, King was known for much of her life as a helpmate to her famous husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; raising their children and working behind the scenes as he led the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950's and '60's. She participated in marches and rallies her husband led, was at his side when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and used her college training in music to sing at concerts to raise money for the cause.
After his assassination in 1968, she continued working towards equality for African-Americans in various, more central ways. Days after her husband's death, King flew to Memphis with three of her children to lead the march of thousands of people in honor of Dr. King and to continue to promote the cause they had both fought for, equality for all people. "I'm more determined than ever that my husband's dream will become a reality," King said. Later that year she led the Poor People's March in Washington, D.C. in place of her husband.
In 1969, she founded the multi-million dollar Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. The complex includes King's boyhood home and his tomb. There are also exhibitions about King's life and speeches on display in an archive. King directed the center's involvement with issues she said bred violence, like hunger, unemployment, voting rights, and racism. "The center enables us to go out and struggle against the evils in our society," she often said. In 1982, the King Center was completed.
To keep the ideology of equality for all people at the forefront of the nation's consciousness, she worked for more than a decade to have her husband's birthday observed as a national holiday. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law and the first Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday was celebrated in 1986.
King's beliefs, actions, and dedication have helped change the United States and the world, making it a place that treats all people more equitably. She died in 2006.
- Reprinted from a NWHM press release
- PHOTO: Congressional Gold Medal