The life of Coretta Scott King

She wasn’t only the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — Coretta Scott King created her own legacy in the movement to end injustice.

More than MLK's Wife

Who is Coretta Scott King?

Coretta Scott was born in 1927 in Marion, Alabama. Her parents were both entrepreneurs. Her childhood was marked by racial violence: her home and her father’s sawmill were burned down when she was a teenager. While studying music at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, she became politically involved in the campus NAACP, the Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees, various peace activities. She then continued her music studies at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. That was where she met then doctoral student Martin Luther King Jr. In 1953, they married and, a year later, they moved to Montgomery, Alabama — the future center for the Civil Rights Movement.

While raising their 4 children, Scott King appeared alongside her husband in the fight against racial injustice. She openly criticized the movement’s exclusion of women. In 1962, aged 35, she represented the activist group Women’s Strike for Peace at the seventeen-nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Her husband was assassinated in 1968 but she continued his legacy. The same year, she founded the King Center, a memorial which focused on protecting and advancing MLK’s legacy. In 1969, she openly expressed disdain for the Vietnam War —and was placed under FBI surveillance for several years.

The same year, she published her memoir, My Life with Martin Luther King Jr. In the 1980s, she led a lobbying campaign to establish Dr. King’s birthday as a federal holiday. It was signed into law in 1983 and took effect 3 years later. Scott King was made a member of the MLK Federal Holiday Commission for life in 1989. Throughout her lifetime, Scott King spoke with many heads of state. At 78, in 2006, she died of cancer. Her funeral was attended by several heads of states.