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King, Coretta Scott

Coretta Scott King

1927–2006

Civil rights activist, writer, singer

On April 8, 1968, four days after her husband, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was brutally gunned down by assassin James Earl Ray on the balcony of a Memphis motel, Coretta Scott King flew to that city to take her husband's place at the head of the march for nonviolent social change. After the march, King rose and addressed the crowd, urging them to join with her in pursuing her husband's dream: "And those of you who believe in what Martin Luther King, Jr., stood for, I would challenge you today to see that his spirit never dies…. From this moment on we are going to go forward. We are going to continue his work to make all people truly free and to make every person feel that he is a human being."

That day King began her emergence as one of the most charismatic and forceful civil rights leaders in the United States. She founded and served as president of the $10 million Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, the first institution to honor an African American civil rights leader. She also gave hundreds of speeches everywhere from churches to college campuses, traveled the world over to meet with international, national, and local leaders to discuss race relations and human rights, wrote her autobiography, and edited a book of Dr. King's quotations. At the time of her death in 2006, she was widely revered as a symbol of dignity and perseverance in the face of great personal loss, as well as a champion of equal rights for all.

Raised in Racist South

Coretta Scott was born on April 27, 1927, into an America where—simply because of the color of their skin—black people were often taught in impoverished, segregated schools, denied access to hotels and restaurants and hospitals, and beaten and imprisoned at the slightest real or imagined offense. Coretta was the second of three children born to Obadiah and Bernice Scott of Heiberger, Alabama, nine miles outside of Marion. The Scotts raised their children on a farm that had been in their family since the Civil War. Though it was rare for black people to own land in the South at that time, the Scotts were not affluent. They were especially hard hit economically during the Depression years of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Coretta herself hoed and picked cotton to earn money for the family. Obie Scott raised garden veg-etables, hogs, cows, and chickens on the farm and drove a taxi to supplement the family income. When he invested his savings in a sawmill of his own, it mysteriously burned to the ground after just two weeks.

Disillusioned but undefeated, Mr. Scott then became the first black man in his community to own a truck. He hauled lumber, an occupation which brought him into direct competition with white men, who grew more and more threatened by him as the availability of jobs declined. He was frequently stopped on the highway and harassed at gunpoint. Nonetheless, he eventually opened a country store. Mr. Scott had a sixth-grade education, which was considerable for a black man of his generation, and according to her friend and biographer Octavia Vivian, Coretta wondered later how much he might have achieved if he had the opportunity to earn a high school diploma.

Coretta's mother, Bernice, was the person from whom Coretta inherited both her musical talent and her desire for an education. Though she had only a fourth-grade education herself, Mrs. Scott insisted that her daughters attend college even if each had only one dress to wear. Thanks to her dedication and to some scholarship assistance, the Scotts were able to send all three of their children to college. Coretta's older sister Edythe was the first full-time black student ever to live on the campus of Antioch College. (After two years there, however, Edythe transferred to Ohio State University, which had a more racially diverse student body.) Obie Leonard, Coretta's younger brother, became a minister after attending Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio, for two years.

An unusually sensitive and intelligent child, Coretta learned early on to recognize discrimination. Her first six years of education were spent at the Crossroads School, a one-room frame schoolhouse where just two teachers taught all six grades. Each day during the five-mile walk from their home to Crossroads, Coretta and her sister and brother were passed on the road by the school bus carrying the white children to their school in Marion. This experience, among others, awakened in Coretta an awareness of racial injustices and a sense of mission to end discrimination. She firmly believed herself destined to some sort of work that would help to improve the condition of oppressed people, especially those "black and deprived" as she had been, she told Ebony.

At a Glance …

Born Coretta Scott on April 27, 1927, in Marion, AL; died January 31, 2006, in Baja California, Mexico; daughter of Obadiah and Bernice (McMurray) Scott; married Martin Luther King, Jr. (a Baptist minister and civil rights leader), June 18, 1953 (died April 4, 1968); children: Yolanda Denise, Martin Luther III, Dexter Scott, Bernice Albertine. Education: Antioch College, AB, 1951; New England Conservatory of Music, MusB, 1954.

Career: Concert singer, activist, lecturer, author. Debuted as singer in Springfield, OH, 1948; delegate to White House Conference on Children and Youth, 1960; Women's Strike for Peace delegate to disarmament conference, Geneva, Switzerland, 1962; Morris Brown College, Atlanta, GA, voice instructor, 1962; Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., Atlanta, founding president and chief executive officer, 1969–2006; Cable News Network, Atlanta, commentator, 1980–2000s.

Memberships: Southern Christian Leadership Conference, board member; National Council of Negro Women; Women's Strike for Peace; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; NAACP; Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation, president.

Awards: National Council on Negro Women Annual Brotherhood Award, 1957; Louise Waterman Wise Award, 1963; Myrtle Wreath Award, Cleveland Hadassah, 1965; Wateler Peace Prize, 1968; Dag Hammerskjoeld Award, 1969; Pacem in Terris award, International Overseas Service Foundation, 1969; Premi Antonio Feltrinelli, 1969, for exceptional display of high moral valor; Leadership for Freedom Award, Roosevelt University, 1971; Martin Luther King Memorial Medal, College of the City of New York, 1971; Eugene V. Debs Award, 1982; Freedom Award, National Civil Rights Museum, 1991; Frontrunner Award, Sara Lee Corporation, 1996; humanitarian award, Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission, 1999; numerous honorary degrees.

Pursued Education in the North

For a long time King thought that she would make her contribution through music. After graduating from Crossroads at the top of her classes, King went on to Lincoln High School in Marion, a private missionary school where, for the first time, she encountered college-educated teachers, both black and white. At Lincoln she began to develop her musical talent. She played the trumpet and piano and sang in the chorus, appearing as a soloist in a number of school recitals and musicals. Her high school music teacher, Olive J. Williams, is credited with inspiring her to consider music as a career.

Because Lincoln was ten miles away, Coretta and the other black students from her area had to leave home early Monday morning and could not return until the weekend. Coretta's mother, displaying the same calm determination that stood King herself in such good stead throughout her public life, decided that the children should not have to be away from home for such long stretches of time. She secured a bus and every school day drove all of the children herself the ten miles each way to and from school, an unheard-of activity for a woman in those days.

In 1945, King graduated first in her high school class and enrolled at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She had been granted a partial scholarship by the college's Race Relations Committee. Though she was at first anxious about adjusting to the alien environment of the northern school and about competing with the white students, she also realized the advantages of attending college in the North: northern schools were generally considered academically superior to those in the South. King decided to major in elementary education and in music.

While at Antioch, King participated in the college's challenging cooperative work-study program, in which students alternated a period of work with a period of study. As a work-study student she served the community in various roles, including that of nursery school attendant, camp counselor, and library assistant. Despite her earlier fears, she found most of her many opportunities at Antioch rewarding and challenging. She apparently did not encounter overt racial prejudice at the college until it came time for her to student teach.

Took a Stand on Racial Issues

Customarily, Antioch's education students were placed in the Yellow Springs, Ohio, public school district to practice teach, but those schools had no black teachers at that time. The supervisor of the program asked King to agree either to travel nine miles away to an all-black school to teach or to teach at the Antioch Demonstration School. Frustrated, King decided to take a stand about her right to teach in the public schools, regardless of her race.

She took her complaint all the way to the president of the college, but to no avail. Even her fellow students refused to support her, fearing that to do so would cost all of them their practice-teaching positions and ultimately their degrees. Bitterly disappointed to discover the shallowness of Antioch's commitment to integration, King decided to accept the compromise position at the Antioch Demonstration School and strengthened her resolve to quietly but firmly resist racial injustices.

Meanwhile, King's interest in music was growing. She added violin to her repertoire of musical instruments and sang in the choir at the Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Ohio, where she gave her first solo concert in 1948. Concerts in Pennsylvania and Alabama followed, and she began to consider continuing her musical education after college. The chairman of the music department at Antioch encouraged her to apply to Boston's New England Conservatory of Music and to the Smith Noyes Foundation for fellowship support.

By the time she graduated in June of 1951, King had been accepted at the conservatory. She decided to give up her plans to become a teacher and to pursue a career on the concert stage. Although her tuition was fully covered by the fellowship, King still had to earn her room and board. She had already arranged to rent a room in the home of a wealthy Massachusetts family. When she arrived in Boston, she further arranged to clean the fifth floor of the house, which she shared with two other students, and two stairways, in exchange for her bed and breakfast. Without money for dinner, though, she was forced to survive on the foods she could afford, like crackers, peanut butter, and fruit. As biographer Vivian put it, King "was in the unique position of living at one of the wealthiest addresses in America and starving."

Later her financial situation began to improve. The Urban League found her a job as a file clerk at a mail-order firm, and after her first year, she began receiving out-of-state aid from her home state of Alabama. This aid was provided for black students barred by segregation from attending white institutions instate. King studied voice with retired opera star Marie Sundelius at the conservatory and also sang with the chorus and the Old South Choir.

Met and Married Martin Luther King, Jr.

While King was studying at the conservatory, another voice student introduced her to a young minister from Atlanta who was studying for a doctorate in theology at Boston University. Coretta Scott's first meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., went badly; he overwhelmed the rather reserved young woman by hinting at marriage on that very first date. Nonetheless, they continued to see each other. Coretta was impressed with King's drive and his concern for the underprivileged. His feelings seemed so similar to her own. But she wondered if—with his solidly middle-class background—he could ever really understand the poverty he hoped to help alleviate. Moreover, as he continued to press her about marriage, she was forced to wrestle with the thought of giving up her dream of becoming a concert singer.

In the end, King and Scott's many similarities won out over their differences. Both had been precocious chil-dren, voracious readers, and excellent students. Both had fathers whose willingness to stand up for justice for blacks in the South had impressed their children deeply. Scott and King were married on the lawn of Coretta's parents' home in Heiberger by the Reverend King, Sr., on June 18, 1953. After the wedding, the couple returned to Boston to complete their educations. King was then offered positions at two Northern churches, two Southern churches, and three schools. They chose to accept the pastorate of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and moved there in September of 1954.

On December 1, 1955, a black seamstress named Rosa Parks sat down in the first row reserved for black people at the back of a public bus in Montgomery. She had worked all day and was tired. When the bus pulled up to the Empire Theater stop, a crowd of white people boarded. Following the laws and customs of the segregated South, the bus driver stood up and asked the black people to move further toward the back of the bus. Three other people moved immediately, but Rosa Parks remained in her seat. When she refused once again to move, a policeman was summoned, and she was arrested for defying segregation laws. Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the Montgomery bus boycott in protest, and the civil rights movement was born. A year later, as a result of the phenomenally successful boycott, the Supreme Court declared Alabama's bus segregation laws unconstitutional.

The Kings' first child, Yolanda Denise, fondly nicknamed "Yoki" by her father, had been born just two weeks before the beginning of the boycott in 1955. The couple went on to have two sons and another daughter. As Dr. King became more and more deeply involved in his nonviolent civil rights crusade, the burden of raising the children as well as a great deal of administrative work for the movement fell to Coretta. She handled the mail and phone calls from his office in their home, including the increasing number of threats on her husband's life.

Robert Johnson, in a 1991 article for Jet, recalled an anecdote once related by Martin Luther King, Jr. about his wife. Their phone had rung in the middle of the night. A sleepy Coretta picked it up to hear an angry voice on the other end of the line snarl: "I want to speak to that nigger who's running the bus boycott!" Calmly she replied, "My husband is asleep and does not wish to be disturbed. He told me to write the name and number of anyone who called to threaten his life so that he could return the call in the morning when he wakes up fresh." Indeed, King remained outwardly calm even when her husband was actually stabbed at a book signing in New York City by a black woman who was later institutionalized for mental incompetence. Splitting her time in the city between his hospital room and a temporary office that was set up for her there, King maintained the smooth operation of the civil rights movement.

Offered Steadying Presence in Civil Rights Movement

King's grace under pressure did not desert her even when the family's home in Montgomery was bombed. She, a friend from church, and Yolanda, then an infant, were the only ones home at the time of the incident, and no one was hurt. But from that moment on, King was acutely aware of the constant danger they faced. The harassment, the jailings, the bombings, and the threats terrified all of them. King realized that she could never find a way to live with such terror; she could either turn her back on their life's work, or banish the fear. She claimed in her autobiography that from then on she lived without fear but held onto the knowledge that death could come to any one of them because of their work to end racial injustice.

During this time King also pursued a number of activities independent of her husband's work. Aside from fulfilling the speaking engagements that he could not keep, she taught voice in the music department of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, where they had moved in 1960, when Martin assumed the co-pastorate of the Ebenezer Baptist Church alongside his father. In addition, King was a Women's Strike for Peace delegate at the Disarmament Conference attended by representatives of seventeen nations and held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1962. Moreover, she made use of her artistic talents by developing and performing in the Freedom Concert, which featured readings, music, and poetry narrating the history of the civil rights movement. Proceeds from the very successful program were contributed to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which Dr. King was then head.

When Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in April of 1968, his wife's commitment to civil rights faced its most severe trial yet. She was, however, better prepared for such a loss than most people would be, both because of her strong religious faith and because she had long ago confronted the dangers inherent in her husband's work. In the days and weeks that followed his death, she calmed the anger and despair of King followers and urged recommitment to the philosophy of nonviolence. She walked in his place at marches and spoke at civil rights and anti-Vietnam War rallies. Gradually she came to be seen as the worthy successor to Dr. King and a leader and symbol of the civil rights struggle.

Became Leader in Her Own Right

Before the end of her first year without her husband, King announced plans for the creation of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change in King's hometown of Atlanta. Begun in the basement of her home in Atlanta, the King Center would grow to cover three full blocks near the Ebenezer Baptist Church. The center houses offices, Dr. King's elevated marble crypt surrounded by a 100-foot long reflecting pool, and the Freedom Hall meeting facility, containing a 3000-seat auditorium, conference rooms, a cultural center, and the King Library and Archives. More than one and a half million visitors stroll down the arch-covered Freedom Walk each year. The center has an annual budget of $3.2 million and employs more than 60 people. Its library serves five thousand scholars annually, who come to peruse the more than one million documents of the civil rights movement held there, including the personal papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By 1995, King had stepped down as chairman and CEO of the King Center, passing the job to her youngest son, Dexter King.

The King Center also sponsors programs in voter education and registration, literacy, the performing arts, early childhood education, and internships for college students from around the world who come to learn effective means of nonviolent social protest. A Federal Bureau of Prisons Project, which is a conflict-resolution training program for prison personnel; a Single Parents Program providing job training, housing assistance, and counseling services; and a Black Family Project, which studies the crises facing black families and coordinates resources to alleviate them, are among the innovative programs the center offers.

In addition, the center launched the petition campaign in favor of making Dr. King's birthday a national holiday. The drive for a holiday began soon after his death and was led by a coalition of black leaders, legislators, and entertainers. Six million signatures were collected and presented to U.S. Congress. After a decade and a half of demonstrations, lobbying, letter-writing campaigns, speeches, and marches—including one attended by several hundred thousand people commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Dr. King's March on Washington—the holiday proponents finally won out. On November 2, 1983, under pressure from black politicians in his own party, then-President Ronald Reagan finally signed the bill designating the third Monday in January as the King Holiday, beginning in 1986.

Even as she aged, King remained a spokesperson for issues affecting justice and civil rights. In 1983, King coordinated the Coalition of Conscience, which sponsored the 20th Anniversary March on Washington. In 1985, she was arrested along with three of her children at the South African embassy in Washington, D.C., in a protest against apartheid. In 1987, she was one of the leaders in the "Mobilization Against Fear and Intimidation" in Forsyth County, Ga. In 1988, she re-convened the Coalition of Conscience for the 25th Anniversary March on Washington. She was in the news again in 1997, calling for a new trial for her husband's convicted killer, James Earl Ray, who died the following year in prison without receiving a new trial. King was among those who believed that Ray was not the true killer, instead adhering to the conspiracy theory that a government intelligence agency committed the crime and used him as a patsy to cover it up.

As evidenced by her support for reform in South Africa, King has supported civil rights and freedom for people the world over. In March 2004, while speaking at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, King spoke out in support of the right of same-sex couples to marry. The issue had come to a head in the early months of 2004, with same-sex couples lining up outside courthouses across the country asking to be legally married in civil ceremonies. She called it a civil rights issue.

In the mid-to late-1990s, the King family drew sharp criticism for their handling of the center and King's legacy, at the core of which was a feud with the National Park Service over a proposed visitors center across the street from the King center. The King family planned to open an interactive museum and felt the Park Service plan would interfere. The two sides came to an agreement, and the Park Service opened their facility in 1996, but the King family did not go forward with their ideas. By 1999, the King family was again under fire for maintaining tight control over the Martin Luther King, Jr., image and his works, as well as for reaping generous profits off of the rights. But neither King nor her son would comment on any such controversy.

On January 31, 2006, King passed away in her sleep. She was 78 and had been in failing health since suffering a stroke and heart attack in August of 2005. Her death was widely mourned around the world, and U.S. President George W. Bush took note of her passing during his annual State of the Union address, noting that "Today our nation lost a beloved, graceful, courageous woman, who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream," according to U.S. News & World Report. Her funeral, held at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, was attended by more than 10,000 people, including four U.S. presidents and a who's who of African American figures from the worlds of politics, entertainment, and the continuing movement for civil rights for all people. Former President Bill Clinton, recalling the way that King carried on her work after the death of her husband, implored those in the audience, according to Jet, "If you want to treat our friend Coretta like a role model, then model her behavior. We can follow in her steps."

Selected writings

My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., Holt, 1969; revised, 1993.
(Editor) King, Martin Luther, Jr., The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Newmarket Press, 1983.
(Compiler) King, Martin Luther, Jr., The Martin Luther King, Jr., Companion: Quotations from the Speeches, Essays, and Books of Martin Luther King, Jr., St. Martin's Press, 1993.

Sources

Books

Gelfand, Dale Evva, Coretta Scott King: Civil Rights Activist, Chelsea House, 2006.

King, Coretta Scott, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., Holt, 1969.

Press, Petra, Coretta Scott King: An Unauthorized Biography, Heinemann, 2000.

Vivian, Octavia, Coretta: The Story of Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr., Fortress, 1970.

Periodicals

Ebony, January 1980; August 1982; January 1986; January 1987; January 1990; January 1991; April 1, 2006.

Economist, February 4, 2006.

Essence, April 1, 2006.

Jet, February 5, 1981; September 19, 1983; November 7, 1983; November 21, 1983; July 15, 1985; January 20, 1986; May 8, 1989; January 21, 1991; February 20, 2006; February 27, 2006.

Newsweek, February 13, 2006.

New York Times, January 31, 2006.

People Weekly, February 13, 2006.

U.S. News & World Report, February 13, 2006.

On-line

"Coretta Scott King, 78, Widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dies," New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2006/01/31/national/31cnd-coretta.html?ex=1296363600&en=b96d2c2efb2dbbb4&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc (August 2, 2006).

"Mrs. Coretta Scott King, Human Rights Activist and Leader," The King Center, www.thekingcenter.org/csk/bio.html (August 2, 2006).

"A Tribute to Coretta Scott King 1927–2006," Antioch College, www.antioch-college.edu/news/csk/index.html (August 2, 2006).

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King, Coretta Scott 1929–

Coretta Scott King 1929

Civil rights activist, author, singer

At a Glance

Traveled North to Attend College

Married Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Birth of the Civil Rights Movement

Emerged as Leader in Her Own Right

Selected writings

Sources

On April 8, 1968, four days after her husband, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was brutally gunned down by assassin James Earl Ray on the balcony of a Memphis motel, Coretta Scott King flew to that city to take her husbands place at the head of the march for nonviolent social change. After the march, King rose and eloquently addressed the crowd, urging them to join with her in pursuing her husbands dream: And those of you who believe in what Martin Luther King, Jr., stood for, I would challenge you today to see that his spirit never dies. From this moment on we are going to go forward. We are going to continue his work to make all people truly free and to make every person feel that he is a human being.

Since that day King has herself emerged as one of the most charismatic and forceful civil rights leaders in the United States. She founded and serves as president of the $10 million Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta; she has also given hundreds of speeches everywhere from churches to college campuses, traveled the world over to meet with international, national, and local leaders to discuss race relations and human rights, written her autobiography, and edited a book of Dr. Kings quotations.

Coretta Scott was born April 27, 1929, into an America wheresimply because of the color of their skinblack people were often taught in impoverished, segregated schools, denied access to hotels and restaurants and hospitals, and beaten and imprisoned at the slightest real or imagined offense. Coretta was the second of three children born to Obadiah and Bernice Scott of Heiberger, Alabama, nine miles outside of Marion. The Scotts raised their children on a farm that had been in their family since the Civil War. Though it was rare for black people to own land in the South at that time, the Scotts were not affluent. They were especially hard hit economically during the Depression years of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Coretta herself hoed and picked cotton to earn money for the family. Obie Scott raised garden vegetables, hogs, cows, and chickens on the farm and drove a taxi to supplement the family income. When he invested his savings in a sawmill of his own, it mysteriously burned to the ground after just two weeks.

Disillusioned but undefeated, Mr. Scott then became the first black man in his community ever to own a truck. He hauled lumber, an occupation which brought him into

At a Glance

Born Coretta Scott, April 27, 1929, in Heiberger, AL; daughter of Obadiah and Bernice (McMurray) Scott; married Martin Luther King, Jr. (a Baptist minister and civil rights leader), June 18, 1953 (died April 4, 1968); children: Yolanda Denise, Martin Luther III, Dexter Scott, Bernice Albertine. Education : Antioch College, A.B. 1951; New England Conservatory of Music, Mus.B. 1954. Religion : Baptist.

Concert singer, activist, lecturer, author. Debuted as singer in Springfield, OH, 1948; delegate to White House Conference on Children and Youth, 1960; Womens Strike for Peace delegate to disarmament conference, Geneva, Switzerland, 1962; Morris Brown College, Atlanta, GA, voice instructor, 1962; Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., Atlanta, founding president and chief executive officer, 1969; Cable News Network, Atlanta, commentator, 1980. Board member, Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Awards: National Council on Negro Women Annual Brotherhood Award, 1957; Louise Waterman Wise Award, 1963; Myrtle Wreath Award, Cleveland Hadassah, 1965; Wateler Peace Prize, 1968; Dag Hammerskjoeld Award, 1969; Pacem in Terris award, International Overseas Service Foundation, 1969; Premi Antonio Feltrinelli, 1969, for exceptional display of high moral valor; Leadership for Freedom Award, Roosevelt University, 1971; Martin Luther King Memorial Medal, College of the City of New York, 1971; Eugene V. Debs Award, 1982; numerous honorary degrees.

Member: National Council of Negro Women, Womens Strike for Peace, Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, NAACP, Martin Luther King, Jr., Foundation (president).

Addresses: Office Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, 449 Auburn Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30312.

direct competition with white men, who grew more and more threatened by him as the availability of jobs declined. He was frequently stopped on the highway and harassed at gunpoint. Nonetheless, he eventually opened a country store. Mr. Scott had a sixth-grade education, which was considerable for a black man of his generation, and according to her friend and biographer Octavia Vivian, Coretta wondered later how much he might have achieved if he had the opportunity to earn a high school diploma.

Corettas mother, Bernice, was the person from whom Coretta inherited both her musical talent and her desire for an education. Though she had only a fourth-grade education herself, Mrs. Scott insisted that her daughters attend college even if each had only one dress to wear. Thanks to her dedication and to some scholarship assistance, the Scotts were able to send all three of their children to college at once. Corettas older sister Edythe was the first full-time black student ever to live on the campus of Antioch College. (After two years there, however, Edythe transferred to Ohio State University, which had a more racially diverse student body.) Obie Leonard, Corettas younger brother, became a minister after attending Central State College in Wilberforce, Ohio, for two years.

An unusually sensitive and intelligent child, Coretta learned early on to recognize discrimination. Her first six years of education were spent at the Crossroads School, a one-room frame schoolhouse where just two teachers taught all six grades. Each day during the five-mile walk from their home to Crossroads, Coretta and her sister and brother were passed on the road by the school bus carrying the white children to their school in Marion.

This experience, among others, awakened in Coretta an awareness of racial injustices and a sense of mission to end discrimination. She firmly believed herself destined to some sort of work that would help to improve the condition of oppressed people, especially those black and deprived as she had been, she told Ebony.

For a long time King thought that she would make her contribution through music. After graduating from Crossroads at the top of her classes, King went on to Lincoln High School in Marion, a private missionary school where, for the first time, she encountered college-educated teachers, both black and white. At Lincoln she began to develop her musical talent. She played the trumpet and piano and sang in the chorus, appearing as a soloist in a number of school recitals and musicals. Her high school music teacher, Olive J. Williams, is credited with inspiring her to consider music as a career.

Because Lincoln was ten miles away, Coretta and the other black students from her area had to leave home early Monday morning and could not return until the weekend. Corettas mother, displaying the same calm determination that has stood King herself in good stead throughout her public life, decided that the children should not have to be away from home for such long stretches of time. She secured a bus and every school day drove all of the children herself the ten miles each way to and from schoolan unheard-of activity for a woman in those days.

Traveled North to Attend College

In 1945, King graduated first in her high school class and enrolled at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She had been granted a partial scholarship by the colleges Race Relations Committee. Though she was at first anxious about adjusting to the alien environment of the northern school and about competing with the white students, who, on the whole, were better prepared for higher education, she also realized the advantages of attending college in the North: northern schools were generally considered academically superior to those in the South. King decided to major in elementary education and in music.

While at Antioch, King participated in the colleges challenging cooperative work-study program, in which students alternated a period of work with a period of study. As a work-study student she served the community in various roles, including that of nursery school attendant, camp counselor, and library assistant. Despite her earlier fears, she found most of her many opportunities at Antioch rewarding and challenging. She apparently did not encounter overt racial prejudice at the college until it came time for her to student teach.

Customarily, Antiochs education students were placed in the Yellow Springs, Ohio public school district to practice teach, but those schools had no black teachers at that time. The supervisor of the program asked King to agree either to travel nine miles away to an all-black school to teach or to teach at the Antioch Demonstration School. Frustrated, King decided to take a stand about her right to teach in the public schools, regardless of her race.

She took her complaint all the way to the president of the college, but to no avail. Even her fellow students refused to support her, fearing that to do so would cost all of them their practice-teaching positions and ultimately their degrees. Bitterly disappointed to discover the shallowness of Antiochs commitment to integration, King decided to accept the compromise position at the Antioch Demonstration School and strengthened her resolve to quietly but firmly resist racial injustices.

Meanwhile, Kings interest in music was growing. She added violin to her repertoire of musical instruments and sang in the choir at the Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Ohio, where she gave her first solo concert in 1948. Concerts in Pennsylvania and Alabama followed, and she began to consider continuing her musical education after college. The chairman of the music department at Antioch encouraged her to apply to Bostons New England Conservatory of Music and to the Smith Noyes Foundation for fellowship support.

By the time she graduated in June of 1951, King had been accepted at the conservatory. She decided to give up her plans to become a teacher and to pursue a career on the concert stage. Although her tuition was fully covered by the fellowship, King still had to earn her room and board. She had already arranged to rent a room in the home of a wealthy Massachusetts family, contributors to a special interracial scholarship fund. When she arrived in Boston, she further arranged to clean the fifth floor of the house, which she shared with two other students, and two stairways, in exchange for her bed and breakfast. Without money for dinner, though, she was forced to survive on the foods she could afford, like crackers, peanut butter, and fruit. As biographer Vivian put it, King was in the unique position of living at one of the wealthiest addresses in America and starving.

Later her financial situation began to improve. The Urban League found her a job as a file clerk at a mail-order firm, and after her first year, she began receiving out-of-state aid from her homestate of Alabama. This aid was provided for black students barred by segregation from attending white institutions in-state. King studied voice with retired opera star Marie Sundelius at the conservatory and also sang with the chorus and the Old South Choir.

Married Martin Luther King, Jr.

While King was studying at the conservatory, another voice student introduced her to a young minister from Atlanta who was studying for a doctorate in theology at Boston University. Coretta Scotts first meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., went badly; he overwhelmed the rather reserved young woman by hinting at marriage on that very first date. Nonetheless, they continued to see each other. Coretta was impressed with Kings drive and his concern for the underprivileged. His feelings seemed so similar to her own. But she wondered ifwith his solidly middle-class background he could ever really understand the poverty he hoped to help alleviate. Moreover, as he continued to press her about marriage, she was forced to wrestle with the thought of giving up her dream of becoming a concert singer.

In the end, King and Scotts many similarities won out over their differences. Both had been precocious children, voracious readers, and excellent students. Both had fathers whose willingness to stand up for justice for blacks in the South had impressed their children deeply. Scott and King were married on the lawn of Corettas parents home in Heiberger by the Reverend King, Sr., on June 18, 1953. After the wedding, the couple returned to Boston to complete their educations. King was then offered positions at two Northern churches, two Southern churches, and three schools. They chose to accept the pastorate of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and moved there in September of 1954.

The Birth of the Civil Rights Movement

On December 1, 1955, a black seamstress named Rosa Parks sat down in the first row reserved for black people at the back of a public bus in Montgomery. She had worked all day and was tired. When the bus pulled up to the Empire Theater stop, a crowd of white people boarded. Following the laws and customs of the segregated South, the bus driver stood up and asked the black people to move further toward the back of the bus. Three other people moved immediately, but Rosa Parks remained in her seat. When she refused once again to move, a policeman was summoned, and she was arrested for defying segregation laws. Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the Montgomery bus boycott in protest, and the civil rights movement was born. A year later, as a result of the phenomenally successful boycott, the Supreme Court declared Alabamas bus segregation laws unconstitutional.

The Kings first child, Yolanda Denise, fondly nicknamed Yoki by her father, had been born just two weeks before the beginning of the boycott in 1955. The couple went on to have three more children. As Dr. King became more and more deeply involved in his nonviolent civil rights crusade, the burden of raising the children as well as a great deal of administrative work for the movement fell to Coretta. She handled the mail and phone calls from his office in their home, including the increasing number of threats on her husbands life.

Robert Johnson, in a 1991 article for Jet, recalled an anecdote once related by Martin Luther King about his wife: their phone had rung in the middle of the night. A sleepy Coretta picked it up to hear an angry voice on the other end of the line snarl: I want to speak to that nigger whos running the bus boycott! Calmly she replied, My husband is asleep and does not wish to be disturbed. He told me to write the name and number of anyone who called to threaten his life so that he could return the call in the morning when he wakes up fresh. Indeed, King remained outwardly calm even when her husband was actually stabbed at a book signing in New York City by a black woman who was later institutionalized for mental incompetence. Splitting her time in the city between his hospital room and a temporary office that was set up for her there, King maintained the smooth operation of the civil rights movement.

Kings grace under pressure did not desert her even when the familys home in Montgomery was bombed. She, a friend from church, and Yolanda, then an infant, were the only ones home at the time of the incident, and no one was hurt. But from that moment on, King was acutely aware of the constant danger they faced. The harassment, the jailings, the bombings, and the threats terrified all of them. King realized that she could never find a way to live with such terror; she could either turn her back on their lifes work, or banish the fear. She claimed in her autobiography that from then on she lived without fear but held onto the knowledge that death could come to any one of them because of their work to end racial injustice.

During this time King also pursued a number of activities independent of her husbands work. Aside from fulfilling the speaking engagements that he could not keep, she taught voice in the music department of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, where they had moved in 1960, when Martin assumed the co-pastorate of the Ebenezer Baptist Church alongside his father. In addition, King was a Womens Strike for Peace delegate at the Disarmament Conference attended by representatives of seventeen nations and held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1962. Moreover, she made use of her artistic talents by developing and performing in the Freedom Concert, which featured readings, music, and poetry narrating the history of the civil rights movement. Proceeds from the very successful program were contributed to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which Dr. King was then head.

Emerged as Leader in Her Own Right

When Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in April of 1968, his wifes commitment to civil rights faced its most severe trial yet. She was, however, better prepared for such a loss than most people would be, both because of her strong religious faith and because she had long ago confronted the dangers inherent in her husbands work. In the days and weeks that followed his death, she calmed the anger and despair of King followers and urged recommitment to the philosophy of nonviolence. She walked in his place at marches and spoke at civil rights and anti-Vietnam War rallies. Gradually she came to be seen as the worthy successor to Dr. King and a leader and symbol of the civil rights struggle.

In 1969 she announced plans for the creation of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Kings hometown of Atlanta. In the decades since the assassination, she has worked tirelessly to raise funds for the complex, which began in the basement of her home in Atlanta but now covers three full blocks near the Ebenezer Baptist Church. The center houses offices, Dr. Kings elevated marble crypt surrounded by a 100-foot long reflecting pool, and the Freedom Hall meeting facility, containing a 3000-seat auditorium, conference rooms, a cultural center, and the King Library and Archives. One and a half million visitors stroll down the arch-covered Freedom Walk each year. The center has an annual budget of $3.2 million and employs more than 60 people. Its library serves five thousand scholars annually, who come to peruse the more than one million documents of the civil rights movement held there, including the personal papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The King Center also sponsors programs in voter education and registration, literacy, the performing arts, early childhood education, and internships for college students from around the world who come to learn effective means of nonviolent social protest. A Federal Bureau of Prisons Project, which is a conflict-resolution training program for prison personnel, a Single Parents Program providing job training, housing assistance, and counseling services, and a Black Family Project, which studies the crises facing black families and coordinates resources to alleviate them, are among the innovative programs the center offers.

In addition, the center launched the petition campaign in favor of making Dr. Kings birthday a national holiday. The drive for a holiday began soon after his death and was led by a coalition of black leaders, legislators, and entertainers. Six million signatures were collected and presented to U.S. Congress. After a decade and a half of demonstrations, lobbying, letter-writing campaigns, speeches, and marchesincluding one attended by several hundred thousand people commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Dr. Kings March on Washingtonthe holiday proponents finally won out. On November 2, 1983, under pressure from black politicians in his own party, then-President Ronald Reagan finally signed the bill designating the third Monday in January as the King Holiday, beginning in 1986.

Coretta Scott King continues her work for civil right today.

She oversees the operations of the King Center and speaks out on civil rights and racial injustice. In her view, nothing is more urgently needed in todays America than a recommitment to the principles of nonviolence. She believes that although demonstrations and marches may still be necessary, the most effective and lasting change will be brought about by the political process. In addition, she maintains that unjust social and political conditions will only change if people are willing to educate themselves on important issues and turn out to vote.

King calls upon women to take a greater part in the shaping of political priorities so that government will recognize the need for every person to have an income sufficient to support a family. And she foresees a new civil rights movement on the horizon, though she recognizes that it will be a formidable task. His dream, she wrote in an essay for Ebony on her husbands legacy, could not be stilled by an assassins bullet, nor could it be silenced by fear, hatred or bigotry. Instead, his vibrant legacy of nonviolent social change will continue to inspire millions for as long as people seek the light of truth, the bread of justice, and the song of a caring and sharing humanity.

Selected writings

(Editor) King, Martin Luther, Jr., The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Newmarket Press, 1983.

My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., Holt, 1969.

Sources

Books

King, Coretta Scott, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., Holt, 1969.

Vivian, Octavia, Coretta: The Story of Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr., Fortress, 1970.

Periodicals

Ebony, January 1980; August 1982; January 1986; January 1987; January 1990; January 1991.

Jet, February 5, 1981; September 19, 1983; November 7, 1983; November 21, 1983; July 15, 1985; January 20, 1986; May 8, 1989; January 21, 1991.

Susan M. Marren

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King, Coretta Scott

Coretta Scott King

Born: April 27, 1927
Perry County, Alabama

African American civil rights advocate

Coretta Scott King was the wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. (19291968). She has gained an international reputation as an advocate (someone that supports a cause) for civil rights, nonviolence, international peace, and equal rights for women.

Early life and school

Coretta Scott was born on April 27, 1927, in Perry County, Alabama. Her parents, Obadiah and Bernice Scott, were farmers. The Scott family had owned land in the area since the American Civil War (186165). Even though the Scotts were more successful than most African Americans in the area, life for them and their three children was difficult. Coretta, along with her mother and sister, tended the family garden and crops, fed the chickens and hogs, and milked the cows.

Scott's early schooling was affected by the system of segregation, which kept people of different races apart. She walked six miles a day to and from school while white students traveled by bus to schools with better facilities and teachers. After completing six grades at the elementary school that "did not do much to prepare" her, Scott enrolled in Lincoln High School in Marion, Alabama. Lincoln "was as good as any school, white or black, in the area," said Scott. She developed an interest in music at Lincoln and, with encouragement from her teachers, decided to pursue a career in it.

Obstacles to overcome

In 1945 Scott graduated as valedictorian (the student having the highest grades) of her high school class and won a scholarship to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Eager to leave the South, Scott enrolled at Antioch only to discover that racism (a dislike or disrespect of someone solely based on his or her race) was very much alive there also. Being the first African American to major in elementary education at Antioch created problems for her. Such a major required a two-year internship, or training periodone year teaching in the Antioch private elementary school and the other in the Ohio public schools. The year at the Antioch school, where Scott taught music, went well. The Yellow Springs school board, however, refused to allow Scott to teach in its school system because of her race. The student body was integrated, meaning that it contained both black and white students, but the faculty (teachers and members of the administrative staff) was all white. Scott was given the option of going to Xenia, Ohio, and teaching in an all-black school or remaining at the Antioch private school for a second year. She chose to stay at the Antioch school.

Discrimination (unequal treatment based on race) made Scott more determined than ever. She joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as well as a race-relations committee and a civil liberties committee. She later said, "I was active on all of them. From the first, I had been determined to get ahead, not just for myself, but to do something for my people and for all people. I took to my heart the words of Horace Mann [17961859], 'Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.'"

Scott's years at Antioch were rewarding despite her unfortunate teaching experience. Her time there renewed and strengthened the values of giving and sharing that she had learned at home and at Lincoln High School. She learned to work toward excellence, crediting the school with helping lead her to believe "that individuals as well as society could move toward the democratic ideal of brotherhood." At Antioch, Scott developed confidence that she could compete with "all people of all racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds" on their terms or on her own. She claimed that "the total experience of Antioch" was an important element in preparing her for the role as wife of Martin Luther King Jr. and for her part in the civil rights movement (the organized effort to gain full equality for African Americans in the United States) he led.

Marriage to Martin Luther King Jr.

While Coretta Scott was at Antioch she realized that she wanted to continue in music and to develop her voice to its fullest potential. She enrolled in the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts, graduating in 1954 with a bachelor's degree in music. It was in Boston that she met Martin Luther King Jr. They were married on June 18, 1953. Her decision to marry the young minister meant giving up her career as a performing concert musician.

In 1954 the Kings moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where they led the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. It was in Montgomery that they were pushed into the leadership of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. was recognized as the movement's leader, but Coretta Scott King was very much a part of it as well. She was actively involved in organizing and participating in the marches and boycotts (a form of protest in which organizers refuse to have dealings with a person, a store, or an organization until policies or positions are changed). She also gave "freedom concerts," in which she sang, read poetry, and gave lectures on the history of civil rights, to raise funds for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC; an organization that was founded by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957 to help local groups in their efforts to gain equality for African Americans) and for the civil rights movement. She also gave speeches all over the country, often standing in for her husband.

A worthy successor

After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, Coretta Scott King continued to work for the civil rights movement. Four days after the violent murder of her husband, the grieving widow and three of her four children returned to Memphis to lead the march Martin had organized. In June 1968 she spoke at the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.C., a rally her husband had been planning before his death. Then, in May 1969 she led a demonstration of striking hospital workers in Charleston, South Carolina.

In addition to her role in the civil rights movement, King was active in the peace movement. She called the Vietnam War (195575; a civil war in which U.S.-backed forces in South Vietnam fought against a takeover by forces from North Vietnam), "the most cruel and evil war in the history of mankind." In 1961 as a representative for the Women's Strike for Peace, she attended a seventeen-nation arms-reduction conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Later, King was concerned with full employment (or providing access to jobs for all people who are able to work). She testified in Washington in favor of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978, which was aimed at reducing both unemployment and rates of price increases. She also supported equal rights and justice for women.

King also led and worked on several national committees and continued to serve on the board of directors of the SCLC. She was president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change, located in Atlanta, Georgia. The Kings' youngest son, Dexter Scott King (1961), took over as leader of the King Center in 1995.

Coretta Scott King continues to work in support of world peace, full employment, and social justice. Furthermore, her commitment to nonviolence is as strong as ever.

For More Information

Klingel, Cynthia Fitterer. Coretta Scott King. Chanhassen, MN: Child's World, 1999.

Press, Petra. Coretta Scott King: An Unauthorized Biography. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2000.

Rhodes, Lisa Renee. Coretta Scott King. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1998.

Schraff, Anne E. Coretta Scott King: Striving for Civil Rights. Springfield, NJ: Enslow, 1997.

Turk, Ruth. Coretta Scott King: Fighter for Justice. Boston: Branden, 1997.

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Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King (born 1929) was the wife of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. She gained an international reputation as an advocate of civil rights, nonviolence, international peace, full employment, and equal rights for women.

Coretta Scott was born on April 27, 1929, in Perry County, Alabama, into a family that had owned land since the Civil War. Her parents, Obadiah and Bernice Scott, were truck farmers. Even though the Scotts were better off financially than most Blacks in the area, life for them and their three children was difficult. Scott, along with her mother and sister, tended the family garden and crops, fed the chickens and hogs, and milked the cows. She helped supplement the family income by hiring out to hoe and pick cotton.

School Years

According to King, her "early schooling was affected by the system of segregation." She walked, rain or shine, six miles a day to and from school, while white students were bused to better facilities and teachers. After completing six grades at the elementary school that "did not do much to prepare" her, Coretta Scott enrolled in Lincoln High School in Marion, Alabama. Lincoln, a semiprivate American Missionary Association institution, "was as good as any school, white or black, in the area," said King. She developed an interest in music at Lincoln and, with encouragement from her teachers, decided that music would be her career.

In 1945 Scott graduated as valedictorian of her high school class and won a partial scholarship to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Eager to leave southern racial hostility, Coretta Scott enrolled at Antioch only to discover that prejudice and racism were very much alive there too. Being the first Black to major in elementary education at Antioch created problems for the Scott. Such a major required a two-year internship—one year in the Antioch private elementary school and the other in the Ohio public schools. The year at the Antioch school where Scott taught music went well. The Yellow Springs School Board, however, refused to allow Scott to teach in its school system. The student body was integrated but the faculty was white. Given the option of going to Xenia, Ohio, and teaching in an all-Black school or remaining at the Antioch private school for a second year, she chose the latter.

Discrimination made Scott more determined than ever. She joined the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a race relations committee, and a civil liberties committee. According to the young college student, "I was active on all of them. From the first, I had been determined to get ahead, not just for myself, but to do something for my people and for all people. I took to my heart the words of Horace Mann, 'Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."'

Scott's undergraduate years at Antioch were rewarding ones, despite her unfortunate practice-teaching experience. Her time there reaffirmed and strengthened the value of giving and sharing that had been instilled at her home and at Lincoln High School. She learned to strive for excellence, crediting the school with reinforcing her belief "that individuals as well as society could move toward the democratic ideal of brotherhood." At Antioch, Scott developed into a strong Black woman, confident that she could compete with "all people of all racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds" on their terms or on her own. She claimed that "the total experience of Antioch" was an important element in preparing her for the role as wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. and for her part in the movement he led.

Marriage to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coretta Scott realized at Antioch that she wanted to continue in music and to develop her voice to its fullest potential. She subsequently enrolled in the New England Conservatory in Boston, graduating in 1954 with a bachelor's degree in music. It was in Boston that she met Martin Luther King, Jr. They were married on June 18, 1953. Her decision to marry the young minister meant giving up her career as a performing concert artist.

In 1954 the Kings moved to Montgomery, Alabama, to pastor the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, and it was here that they were thrust into the leadership of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. was recognized as the leader of the movement, but Coretta Scott King, too, was very much a part of it. She was actively involved in the organizing and planning and in the marches and boycotts. Her life, too, was endangered. She gave "Freedom Concerts" to raise funds for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and for the movement and gave speeches all over the country, often standing in for her husband.

A Worthy Successor

After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, Coretta Scott King continued to serve the civil rights movement. Four days after the violent murder of her husband, the grieving widow and three of her four children returned to Memphis to lead the march Martin had organized. In June of 1968 she spoke at the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.C., a rally her husband had been enthusiastically planning before his death, and in May of 1969 she led a demonstration of striking hospital workers in Charleston, South Carolina.

In addition to her role in the civil rights movement, King was active in the peace movement; she deemed the Vietnam War "the most cruel and evil war in the history of mankind." In 1961, as a delegate from the Women's Strike for Peace, she attended a 17-nation disarmament conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Later King was concerned with full employment, testifying in Washington in favor of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1976, and in seeking equal rights and economic justice for women.

The recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards, Coretta Scott King chaired and cochaired several national committees and continued to serve on the board of directors of the SCLC. She also was president of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Social Change, located in Atlanta, Georgia, and continued to lobby for world peace, full employment, and social justice. The Kings' youngest son, Dexter Scott King, took over as chairman and CEO of the King Center in 1995.

Coretta Scott King and Dexter Scott King have asked for a new trial for James Earl Ray, the man convicted of killing Martin Luther King, Jr. The King family, along with author William F. Pepper, have raised suspicions that a government plot was involved and that Ray did not act alone. □

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King, Coretta Scott

Coretta Scott King, 1927–2006, American civil-rights leader, b. Heiberger, Ala.; the wife (1953–68) of Martin Luther King, Jr. After her husband's assassination, she carried on his civil-rights work. She also campaigned to have his birthday commemorated as a national holiday, which was first observed in 1986, and establihsed the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change in Atlanta. In the late 1990s she and other family members supported the unsuccessful efforts of James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of her husband, to win a new trial, believing that Martin Luther King was the victim of a conspiracy that may have included members of the U.S. government. In 1999 she and her family brought and won a wrongful death suit against Loyd Jowers, who claimed to have arranged King's assassination for a Mafia figure. Many experts, however, were not convinced by the evidence presented during the trial. She wrote My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr. (1969).

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