Influential Women #03: Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King is famously known as “Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife”, and even though it is true that she played a huge role in King’s activism, she was a lot more than just her husband’s main source of support: Coretta was a civil rights activist of her own, not only standing up against race crimes, but also holding strong feminist values and condemning wars all over the world.

Coretta Scott King had been talented since the day she was born in 1927: besides being a great singer and violin player, she managed to attend Antioch College and Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music (where she, in fact, met her future husband, who was at the time studying Theology at Boston University) and she successfully obtained several degrees. At Antioch she studied voice and music education and in Boston she successfully finished a bachelor of music.

While studying at Antioch College, Coretta became a part of the NAACP, and later of the Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees. Coretta’s civil rights activism is usually reduced to the support of her husband, travelling along side him to Ghana and India and strongly agreeing with his every word, but what many people do not know is that she played a significant role among activists herself: she participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of her own accord, she played an important role in the passing of the Civil Rights Act, and while raising their four children she still played a critical role in the fight for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.

Even after her husband’s assassination in 1968, an extremely traumatic experience especially for her, Coretta did not back down: she founded the Center for Non-Violent Social Change shortly after, stood in for her husband on many events in the months to follow and helped launch the Poor People’s Campaign. In the years to come, Coretta would continue to speak up for minorities all over the world – participating in several marches, giving speeches in which she kept her husband’s legacy alive, being a commentator on CNN, publicly defying South-African apartheid, writing columns whenever she could and even fighting for LGBT rights in a time where this was “new” and strongly disapproved of by the public.

Coretta Scott King continued to spread a message of peace and equality wherever she came until the day she died in 2006, leaving a huge impression on the history of social activism. She was, indeed, a loving and supportive wife to Martin Luther King Jr. – but she was also so much more.

  • L. Parole

 

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