Human Rights Leader. Wife. Peacemaker. Mother. Global Citizen. Alabama Native. Coretta Scott King. Coretta Scott King was a messenger of nonviolence and the beloved community. She spoke at massive peace and justice rallies; supported democracy movements world-wide; counseled prime ministers and presidents; and participated in protests alongside working people of all races. In the role she embraced most passionately, she was the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the mother of their four children, Yolanda Denise, Martin Luther, III, Dexter Scott, and Bernice Albertine.
On April 27, 1927, Mrs. King was born to Bernice McMurry Scott and Obadiah Scott. The third of four children, she was raised in a humble, hardworking family on her paternal grandfather’s farm in Heiberger, Alabama.
The valedictorian of the 1945 class of Lincoln High School in Marion, Alabama, Mrs. King attended Antioch College on scholarship. While studying music and education, she was a member of the Antioch chapter of the NAACP and of the Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees. Upon graduating, she was awarded a scholarship to study concert singing at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.
There, she met Martin Luther King, Jr., a charismatic young minister and doctoral candidate at Boston University’s School of Theology. They married on June 18, 1953 on the lawn of her parents home near Marion, Alabama. After completing her degree in voice and violin at the New England Conservatory in September 1954, the Kings moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where Dr. King became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
The Kings were soon involved in the dramatic events of the modern Civil Rights Movement, which began in Montgomery. His bold leadership and advocacy of nonviolent civil disobedience made Dr. King the most recognizable face of the Movement.
Mrs. King’s life-long convictions led her to continue to speak before church, civic, and peace groups and to convince Dr. King to publicly oppose the Vietnam War. These convictions also prompted Mrs. King to conceive and perform a series of freedom concerts to raise funds for the Movement. The freedom concerts combined prose and poetry narration with musical selections.
After Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, Mrs. King devoted her life to preserving and advancing his legacy. In June 1968, she founded the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change as the offcial memorial to her husband and his nonviolent philosophy. Under her leadership, The King Center provided training on Dr. King’s philosophy and methods of nonviolence to tens of thousands of people from many nations. Mrs. King guided the creation of the largest archive of documents from the Civil Rights Movement, including her husband’s papers. She also spearheaded the immense educational and lobbying campaign to establish Dr. King’s birthday as a national holiday, first celebrated in 1986 and now commemorated by millions of people in over 100 countries.
Mrs. King died on January 30, 2006. 14,000 people attended her televised funeral, including then President George W. Bush and former presidents George H. W. Bush, Carter and Clinton. The first woman and black person to lie in state in the Georgia State Capital, Mrs. King now rests alongside her husband in a memorial tomb in The King Center’s reflecting pool in Atlanta, Georgia.
A life well-lived for the benefit of the global community…Coretta Scott King.