Coretta Scott King was a woman who denied herself to perform God’s work and lead by example. Here are five admirable attributes embedded with history.
- “FIRST LADY” OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
We are all familiar with the term “first lady” whether it is regarding the wife of a pastor or the wife of the president. Although Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a national president, his wife, Coretta, was undeniably dubbed the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement. It all started when Rosa Parks denied a seat to a white passenger in 1955. From there the Civil Rights Movement sparked with the Montgomery Bus Boycott that Martin and Coretta tirelessly led. From there, the movement exploded, and as a strong First Lady, Coretta fought alongside her husband to implement their ideas and to see a difference in, not only this country, but the world.
- SUPPORTING WIFE
Coretta and Martin had their first date during college. Martin told Coretta that very night that she had all the elements of his ideal wife: intelligence, beauty, character, and personality. Very stunned at Martin’s boldness, Coretta eventually lived up to Martin’s standards of a wife. Because they shared many beliefs and ideas, it was easy for Coretta to support Martin’s dreams, because she had those same dreams as well. However, it was extremely difficult at times for Coretta to keep moving forward with the protesting, the congregating of organizations, the implementation of radical ideas, and the overseas traveling simply because of the racially-charged riots and personal threats they faced on a regular basis. The unconditional love that Coretta had for Martin kept that support alive.
- DYNAMIC MOTHER
Coretta and Martin bore four children together: Yolanda, Marty, Dexter, and Bernice (“Bunny”) King. With strongly ethical and Christian parents such as Coretta and Martin, it’s undeniable that their offspring were destined for greatness. After the assassination of Martin, Coretta had to step up and become both the mother and father of her four kids. She instilled values and wisdom in them, from finding creative ways to tell them all that, “Daddy is gone to Heaven, you won’t see him anymore but will always feel him” to raising them on Godly standards and shared ethics. Coretta suppressed her tears of grief but pushed through to be there for her kids; it was not about her anymore, but about the well-being of her children and a better world. She, along with other family members and close friends, taught them how to be strong and courageous, fight for their causes, and how to carry on Martin’s legacy which she accomplished just by sharing Martin’s memories and accomplishments with them. With their children being so tender in age, there was only so much memory they had of their iconic father. Fortunately, all four of their children went on to pursue careers in activism, law, and ministry.
- ARCHITECT OF MLK’S LEGACY
There are numerous things that Coretta accomplished in honor of her husband after his death. Martin may have gotten assassinated, but his legacy did not! Coretta knew that Martin’s work was not done. Immediately after Martin’s death, Coretta began mapping out The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. This historical center is also a resource center with recreational and literary classes, especially for low-income communities. It offered social education, taught people about Dr. King, how to become leaders, and perpetuate his legacy for nonviolent social change. It took Coretta a significant amount of time, but the King Center finally came to fruition in 1968. The Center still stands today, newly restored but based on the same ethics.
- BROKE THE MOLD
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, social norms suggested that married women (especially moms) stay at home to keep the house and nurture her children. A lot of women were denied jobs outside the house at this time, and Martin encouraged Coretta to stay home with their kids while he went out protesting. But Coretta didn’t believe in staying in the “typical wife mode.” She believed that she was needed in the movement just as much as Martin was needed, and on some occasions, even their children accompanied them on marches!
Coretta was an uncompromising leader of quiet confidence, elegance and unique strength. A true role model.