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Corretta Scott King

Source: Getty

Throughout history, we’ve encountered couples who share the same vision, who are walking the same difficult but critical path with the same level of passion,  who work together to make the world a better place. Their love of the same goals makes their pursuit stronger and their bond stronger. Many would say Barack and Michelle Obama are such a pair. Medgar and Myrlie Evers are another notable couple who helped shape the civil rights movement. The most notable pair might be Coretta Scott King and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The dream to see equity and civil rights for African Americans and other oppressed people was so strong between the two civil rights activist that Coretta continued to fight the good fight in MLK’s absence. She did not fold with grief. Coretta powered on and became an integral of a player – if not an influential one – at carrying forward the civil rights movement and dream that MLK conceived. In honor of her birthday, today we look at some of her most notable accomplishments.


She Founded The King Center

Martin Luther King Center For Non-Violent Social Change, Atlanta, Georgia

Source: Joe Sohm/Visions of America / Getty

After MLK’s passing, Coretta founded The King Center, which is both a memorial to MLK and a center that is dedicated to the continued promotion and teachings of MLK’s ideas. Coretta worked vigorously to raise funds both from the private sector and the government to get the center up and running, and even found herself in several legal and public battles surrounding the ownership of certain documents left behind by her husband. In the end, Coretta successfully saw the center to completion, and today it boasts a library and archives with some of the most comprehensive collections of civil-rights documents.


She Made MLK Day A Holiday

Dr. & Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr., head-and-shoulders portrait, New York City, New York, USA, Herman Hiller, New York World-Telegram & Sun Photo Collection, 1964

Source: Universal History Archive / Getty

Though MLK was assassinated in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. Day would not become a federal holiday until 1983. Coretta enlisted the help of attorney Murray M. Silver and was able to get six million people to sign a petition, requesting MLK day become a federal holiday. To this day, MLK day is a time to reflect on service to others and racial equality in this country – in honor of Martin Luther King Jr’s own ideologies.


She Opposed Apartheid

Jesse Jackson and Coretta Scott King 1983

Source: Ben Martin / Getty

Coretta was active in the anti-apartheid movement, having met with multiple leaders in Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe on the issue and participating in several protests. She met with Winnie Mandela, at the time when Nelson Mandela was in prison. Historians often state Coretta’s silent sit-ins in protest of South Africa’s racial policies inspired thousands of similar protests around the country.


She Was An LGBTQ+ Ally

Rainbow LGBT flag waving in the wind against clear blue sky

Source: Alexander Spatari / Getty

In the early 1980s, Coretta used her platform to fight for the LGBTQ+ community, pledging her support of the Gay and Civil Rights Act that was in front of congress at the time. The bill would make discrimination against gay and lesbians in the areas of housing, employment and other major sectors, illegal. Later, Coretta would make the King Center a safe haven for members of the LGBTQ+ community – particularly Black individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS. In the early 1990s, this activism continued, and Coretta held a press conference insisting that President Clinton stop the ban on individuals in the LGBTQ+ community serving in the military and supported the Employment Mon-Discrimination Act.


She Opposed The Vietnam War

Coretta Scott King Discussing Center

Source: Bettmann / Getty

Coretta stood on the very stage MLK was meant to speak on in New York’s Central Park, just weeks after MLK’s passing. Going off of notes she found in her husband’s jacket pocket, she addressed thousands of listeners, revealing what her husband had created: the Ten Commandments on Vietnam. She explained that America’s investment in the war directly impacted those living in poverty in America, and that the U.S. was not the “liberator” they claimed to be of the Vietnamese people. She has since been vocal many times about her anti-war sentiments, including during the Iraq war.

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