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For Martin Luther King Day, Let’s Not Forget His Right Arm And Civil Rights Pioneer Coretta Scott King

This year marks the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. To honor the many fearless and historical women who made strides for the rights of women and minorities, People magazine is looking back on them through a new series called #SeeHer Story. The new digital video series airs on PEOPLE.com and @PeopleTV social handles and is headed up by Katie Couric Media. 

This week, the new series has put a spotlight on the life and times of civil rights activist Coretta Scott King in honor of her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In the new video, the series highlights her work and contribution to the Civil Rights Movement and lifelong activist as a leader in her own right.

In the new series, King is hailed as a fearless leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

King, who had been born in 1927 in Marion, Alabama, has long been celebrated for her work as an author, activist and civil rights leader in the movement to advocate for African-American equality. Later in her life, years after her husband’s assassination, she broadened her fight for quality to include the advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights and the opposition of apartheid. 

Throughout her life, King faced racism but her eyes were opened to it at a young age as girl growing up in the south in the town of Marion, Alabama. As People reports, King was subjected to the physical threat of racism when her family home was destroyed by arsonists.

Education became a defining aspect of Coretta’s life. 

Having been born into a family whose paternal great-matriarch had been a former slave, education proved to be an essential requirement in her family home in her early ears. During a speech at Antioch College, Coretta once quoted her mother as having said, “My children are going to college, even if it means I only have but one dress to put on.” She went onto study political activism at Antioch University and later music at  New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. It was during her time as a student that Coretta met Martin Luther King, Jr., then a theology student. There, the two students bonded over their interest in Ghandi and his practice of nonviolent protests and the two later married in 1953. 

Soon after they wed, they moved to Montgomery and found themselves thrust into the Civil Rights Movement. 

By 1955, King and her husband had taken on leadership positions in the protests that came about after Rosa Parks protest. 

After giving up her dreams to become a classical singer so that she could support her husband, Coretta watched her husband become a full-time pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954.

“We found ourselves in the middle of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Martin was elected leader of the protest movement. As the boycott continued, I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself,” Coretta said in the video created by People. During their fight for equality, King and her husband faced extreme acts of racism and violence. In 1955, just months after the birth of their child, Yolanda, the Kings were targeted when a gunshot went through the front door of their home. In 1956, the family’s  front porch was destroyed by a homemade bomb. At the time  Coretta had been home with her  daughter and a family friend. Two years later, in 1958 King’s husband, Martin, had been stabbed while he’d been signing copies of his book.

Still, the couple would not be deterred. The two stood side by side as her husband continued to lead peaceful protests and give  speeches. King herself led a series of her own demonstrations by conducting concerts.

Then, in 1968, Coretta’s husband was shot and killed. 

After her husband’s death,  King had been left a widow and the single mother of four children. In the years after her husband’s death, King gave speeches advocating for civil rights speaking about her husband’s ideals. Eventually King took up her husband’s torch and broadened her fight to include women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, economic issues, world peace and apartheid.

“The world is in dire need of a spiritual awakening which will make those eternal values of love, justice, mercy and peace meaningful in our time,” Coretta said of her work in the clip by People.

Later in her life, King founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center and continued to extend her activism and worked to fight for nuclear disarmament. 

During her life and after it, Coretta has been celebrated for her work in keeping her husband’s legacy alive. She fought for the creation of Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which thanks to King is observed today in all fifty states. 

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