This Black History Month I’m Grateful for Coretta Scott King
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by
the compassionate actions of its members… a heart of grace and a soul generated
-Coretta Scott King
Somehow, many of us have managed to forget the critical role
Coretta Scott King played in the Civil Rights Movement. As the wife of Martin Luther King, Coretta
would automatically hold some level of importance but her accomplishments
during and after his lifetime have been incredible and valuable. Most accounts
of Mrs. King focus on her status as a loving wife and homemaker but she was
much more a partner to Rev. King than was typical (or publicly acceptable)
during the 1950s. It is clear that she made remarkable efforts at maintaining
domestic tranquility in the midst of incredibly trying circumstances.
While her status as a symbol of love was incredibly valuable
to the Movement, Coretta Scott King went far beyond the prescribed models of
femininity. She was such a competent leader that she presided over the first
meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Council. Mrs. King was also a
talented enough singer that she performed ‘freedom concerts’ to raise money for
civil rights initiatives.
For more than a decade, the Kings were constantly under the threat
of death and indeed had their home bombed multiple times. As the mother of four
children, Mrs. King could have easily asked her husband to take a less public
profile yet she publicly (and privately!) insisted that her resolve was only
strengthened by the violence perpetrated against her family. After her husband’s
assassination in 1968, Mrs. King failed to be cowed and raised her own public
profile by founding the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social
Eventually, Coretta Scott King became an outspoken opponent
of South Africa’s apartheid regime, a dedicated peace activist and one of the
first prominent Blacks to advocate for same sex marriage rights. Mrs. King also
led the way for the creation of the King federal holiday.* Mrs. King continued
to grow and change as she aged, eventually embracing veganism and her role as
the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement.
For nearly forty years after Martin Luther King’s murder,
Coretta Scott King served as a living symbol of the highest ideals of the Movement.
She focused continuing attention on the issues of racism, poverty, violence and
inequality that so deeply informed her work and life. It is particularly
appropriate that she be celebrated on Valentine’s Day as she continues to serve
as a tremendous symbol of love.
Today I am grateful for Coretta Scott King. You should be
*- Alongside Stevie