She is known for being the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., but Coretta Scott King was an author, activist and civil rights leader in her own right.
Born on April 27, 1927, King got involved in politics as a student at Antioch College where she faced discrimination. She joined the Antioch chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the college’s Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees.
Afterwards, she transferred to New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she met MLK Jr., whom she married in 1953. They moved to Alabama, where they found themselves in the Montgomery bus boycott, two years later which cemented the couple’s involvement in the civil rights movement.
As the boycott continued, I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself, something of profound historic importance. I came to the realization that we had been thrust into the forefront of a movement to liberate oppressed people, not only in Montgomery but also throughout our country, and this movement had worldwide implications. I felt blessed to have been called to be a part of such a noble and historic cause–Coretta Scott King
As the wife of MLK Jr., she was in the line of fire for the actions and inaction of her husband. She would later complain about how she became sidelined and only seen as the spouse of the civil rights activist.
“I am made to sound like an attachment to a vacuum cleaner. The wife of Martin, then the widow of Martin, all of which I was proud to be. But I was never just a wife, nor a widow. I was always more than a label,” she said.
Upon the death of MLK Jr., King filled in the political void he had left behind. She continued most of his work, enacting plans he had developed with other civil rights leaders. She also set up her own path: campaigning for welfare rights and need to address unemployment crisis at the time. She was vocal in criticizing the stereotypical display of black women as loud and lazy as well as the continual view of violence against women and minorities as a normal occurrence.
It is through her leadership that the vision of MLK Jr. expanded.
Here are some of the most powerful quotes from the author, civil rights leader and activist.