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Profile of Coretta Scott King, Human Rights Advocate


Profile of Coretta Scott King, Human Rights Advocate

Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King, Human Rights Advocate:

Coretta Scott King was widely known as the widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Mrs. King was also a tireless, profoundly effective advocate for human rights. Mrs. King died on January 30, 2006 of stroke complications.

For decades, Mrs. King was CEO of the King Center she founded to continue her husband's principles of nonviolent social change to fight poverty, racism and war. She's been awarded 60 honorary degrees, authored 3 books and served in dozens of organizations.

Recent Notoriety:

On August 16, 2005, Mrs. King suffered a major stroke that caused paralysis on the right side of her body, and left her unable to walk or speak. She had two small strokes in April and early August.

Years ago, the American Library Association established two awards to honor Mrs. King's "courage and determination in continuing to work for peace and world brotherhood." The awards are presented annually to an African-American author and illustrator for inspiring and educational contributions.

Personal Information:


Birth - April 27, 1927 in Heiberger, Alabama

Education - Valedictorian of Lincoln High School, 1945; BA in music and education from Antioch College, 1951; degree in voice and violin from New England Conservatory of Music in 1953.

Family - Married on June 18, 1953 in the Scott's home. Their marriage was performed by King's father. Four adult children, including one pastor, Rev. Bernice King who preaches at a Georgia Baptist church.

Faith - Christian, Baptist

Growing Up in Alabama:

Born to farmers who owned their land since the Civil War, the 3 Scott children picked cotton during the Depression to make ends meet for the family. Mrs. Scott determined that her children would graduate from high school, which was 9 miles from home. Mrs. Scott rented a bus and drove area children to and from school, an astonishing feat for a black woman in that era.

Said Mrs. King, "My mother always told me that I was going to go to college, even if she didn't have but one dress to put on."

College Education and Experiences:

Coretta enrolled at Antioch College in Ohio, where her older sister had been the first black student to live on campus. Although a gifted singer and musician, she aspired to be an elementary teacher. Her goal was thwarted when, unlike white students, she wasn't allowed to practice teach in public schools.

She was accepted for graduate work at the Boston music conservatory, where she did housework and subsisted on meager meals to pay tuition.

Meeting and Marrying Martin Luther King, Jr. :

While studying music, she met King, then pursuing a PhD at Boston University. "...he was looking for a wife. I wasn't looking for a husband, but he was a wonderful human being," she told an interviewer. "I still resisted his overtures, but after he persisted, I had to pray about it...I had a dream, and in that dream, I was made to feel that I should allow myself to be open and stop fighting the relationship. That's what I did, and of course the rest is history. "

Wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. :

In 1954, the Kings moved to Alabama where Dr. King began ministry and civil rights work. The first boycott started 2 weeks after their first child was born in 1955, and in 1956, the King home was bombed. Coretta was full partner in her husband's work, marching and traveling with him, and giving speeches in his absence. While raising 4 children and taking on the pastor's wife role, she also gave Freedom Concerts to benefit the civil rights movement.

After Dr. King's Assassination in 1968:

Four days after King's assassination in Memphis, Mrs. King led 50,000 marchers through the streets of that city. Two months later, she led the massive Poor People's March to Washington on behalf of all races. In 1969, she traveled to India to accept an award on Dr. King's behalf, and she became the first woman to preach at St. Paul's Cathedral in Great Britain. Her main goal, though, was to found the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Coretta Scott King's Works, Travels and Speeches:

Resulting from her efforts, the King Center covers 23 acres, archives a definitive history of the US civil rights movement, hosts a million visitors a year, and has trained tens of thousands in Dr. King's philosophy. She also successfully spearheaded a massive campaign to establish Dr. King's birthday as the first federal holiday for an African-American. She's led peace delegations around the world, and lent support to world spiritual and political leaders.

Memorable Quotes:

I learned that when you are willing to make sacrifices for a great cause, you will never be alone, because you will have divine companionship and the support of good people. This same faith and cosmic companionship sustained me after my husband was assassinated, and gave me the strength to make my contribution to carrying forward his unfinished work.

"I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation."

"Segregation was wrong when it was forced by white people, and I believe it is still wrong when it is requested by black people."

"Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul."

"The value of life in our cities has become as cheap as the price of a gun."

"In this country. we vigorously regulate the sale of medicine and severely limit the advertising of cigarettes because of their effect on human health. But we allow virtually anyone in America to buy a gun and virtually everyone in the nation to see graphic violence."

"When I say I was married to the cause, I was married to my husband whom I loved -- I learned to love, it wasn't love at first sight -- but I also became married to the cause. It was my cause, and that's the way I felt about it. So when my husband was no longer there, then I could continue in that cause, and I prayed that God would give me the direction for my life....But then I finally determined that it was the King Center, because Martin's message and his meaning were so powerful....So I felt that my role, then, was to develop an institution, to institutionalize his philosophy, his principles of nonviolence and his methodology of social change, and that's what I have spent my years doing."

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