Hero:Coretta Scott King:Coretta Scott King was born in 1927 in Marion, Alabama. She graduated at the top of her class from Lincoln high school, continuing to pursue a higher education in music and education at Antioch College. She met her future husband Martin Luther King Jr.
in Boston, marrying him on June 18, 1953. At the time, MLK Jr. was studying theology, and soon became a pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama. From that point, Coretta assumed the role and responsibilities that were expected of a pastor’s wife. But little did she know that marrying MLK Jr. would soon mean that she would be the face of the Civil Rights movement and the fight for political and social equality.
Throughout the Civil Rights movement, although her husband was on the frontlines of the battle for equal rights and representation for all, Coretta was not overshadowed by his legacy, influencing the Civil Rights movement in her own way by speaking in front of fraternities, churches, colleges, and various peace groups in addition to raising her four children. Interestingly enough, MLK Jr. was quite conservative in terms of the role he wanted Coretta to play as a homemaker and a mother. This did not deter Coretta who worked to raise money for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference which her husband spearheaded by creating “Freedom Concerts” which displayed a variety of musical and literary works. After various travels around the world and even collaborations with Gandhi in India, Coretta became a champion for those who had no voice, acting as a liaison to peace and justice organizations in addition to public officials. During the Voting Rights Act, although Coretta continued to support her husband through her fundraising and speaking, I believe one of her biggest and most painstaking contributions were her unwavering support of her husband despite the alleged affairs that were discovered by the FBI’s wiretapping and surveillance of MLK. In the film Selma, Coretta is depicted as having confronted MLK about his alleged infidelity after a sex tape was sent to her from J.
Edgar Hoover of the FBI in hopes of halting her husband’s continual push for the Voting Rights Act. However, an analysis of this film’s depiction of the events reveal that she simply passed on the tape and materials to MLK with no confrontation. Regardless of whether she confronted MLK about the tape or not, one fact stands clear – during the monumentous Selma to Montgomery march, Coretta stood strong, linked arm to arm with her husband, mere months after the tape was sent to her.
After her husband’s death, she continued to make his legacy known through her lobbying for MLK Jr. day, the establishment of the King Center, and her continual support of the Civil Rights movement. She spearheaded human rights globally, championing different causes from womens’ rights to protesting the apartheid in South Africa. She worked to create interracial coalitions, serving as the co-chair for both the National Committee for Full Employment and the Full Employment Action Council.
I believe that Coretta lived a life full of hardships that she faced with grace and poise. She overcame her background of poverty through excelling in her education, and signed up for a life as a pastor’s wife, unknowingly signing up to become an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. She braved threats from those against the Civil Rights movement, strains on her marriage, and the assassination of her husband, not even shedding a tear in public once, a symbol of resilience and strength to all. Arguably, her unfaltering support of the movement and her husband was pivotal in his success – in a time where many tried to undermine his credibility through accusations of his infidelity, ties to communism, and other denigrations, Coretta never failed to leave her husband’s side, a steadfast symbol to all of her belief in the movement and MLK Jr. She could have easily suspected her husband, or said no to a life of death threats against herself and her children, but she remained strong, because she shared the vision that her husband did – that “one day they would live in a nation where their children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”. And that took a degree grit and trust that not many have.
Her legacy continues on today, with her words used in pivotal political moments such as Elizabeth Warren’s campaign against Jeff Sessions’ appointment as Attorney General of the Trump administration, who quoted COretta on the floor, who wrote “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship”.