On Monday, we honored a man who had a lasting impact on the world. I’m not downplaying Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful fight for desegregation and civil rights, however I think it is just as important to talk about the woman who stood by his side throughout his battles for equality—Coretta Scott King.
Coretta Scott was born in Marion, Alabama in 1927. Her grandmother, a former slave, was actually the midwife at her birth. Coretta was raised with her brothers and sisters in the segregated south. Coretta’s mother, Bernice, would bus her children as well as other black children in the neighborhood to the closest school—Lincoln Normal School.
Coretta excelled in academics as well as in the school (and church’s) choir and band in which she played the trumpet. She graduated valedictorian of her senior class in 1945 and attended Antioch College. At the time, Antioch was a historically all-white school and, in an effort to diversify, the college gave full scholarships to African-American students. Coretta’s sister was the first black student to attend Antioch just two years prior.
Because of her singing and musical prowess, Coretta was awarded a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. While at the Conservatory, Coretta was introduced to a young man—Martin Luther King Jr. At first, Coretta was not too keen on Martin; but, as she got to know him, Coretta fell for the future pastor and civil rights activist.
The pair married in 1953. In 1954, after earning her degree in voice and violin from the New England Conservatory of Music, Coretta and her husband moved to Montgomery, Alabama where Martin became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
Coretta gave up her dreams of a professional singing career and shifted her focus to the civil rights fight and assisting her husband in planning peaceful protests.
In 1958, Coretta headlined a concert at a high school, singing songs about the fight to change legislation regarding segregation as well as break down the walls of racism. Coretta worked side by side with her husband until his untimely death in 1968. After Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Coretta continued his work and his mission as long as she lived.
Coretta Scott King endured her home being bombed, her husband being arrested several times, and numerous attempts by the FBI and other governmental offices to discredit herself, her husband, and their marriage, and she did it with grace and peace. Thank you, Coretta, for your lovely legacy and inspiring life story.