Black History Month Pathfinder Profile: Coretta Scott King

Many remember Coretta Scott King as the wife of prolific Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., but Coretta Scott King forged her own path as an advocate for gay rights, the underprivileged, and the vulnerable.

The media portrayed her as a mere accessory to her husband, but Coretta Scott King traveled the world for over 40 years using her voice to fight for racial justice, women’s rights, gay and lesbian dignity, religious freedom and more. A native of Marion, Alabama King graduated at the top of her high school class then matriculated to Antioch College in Ohio. She then went on to Boston where she earned a degree in violin and voice. She met Martin in Boston when he was a doctoral candidate at Boston University’s School of Theology. The couple married on June 18, 1953, at Coretta’s family home in Marion.

In addition to helping Martin organize, Coretta Scott King also worked as a public mediator and as a liaison to peace and justice organizations. Four days after her husband’s assassination in 1968, Coretta led her husband’s planned march through Memphis to support striking sanitation workers. Coretta also founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The King Center serves as a memorial to King’s life and dream. Coretta Scott King served as Founding President, Chair and CEO of The King Center. She published her book, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1969.

In 1974, she co-chaired the National Committee for Full Employment. She also formed the Coalition of Conscience in 1983. When Congress made the third Monday of every January officially Martin Luther King Day it was because of Coretta Scott King’s lobbying efforts. Dr. King was the first non-president to have a national holiday in his honor. In 1990, King co-convened the Soviet-American Women’s Summit. Her alma mater, Antioch College houses the Coretta Scott King Center.

King has received over 60 honorary doctorates and helped dozens of organizations. She has also received several prestigious awards including the Key of Life award from the NAACP and the Gandhi Peace Prize from the Government of India. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2011.

The Ellison for Congress team salutes Coretta Scott King for her commitment to move America forward.

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