Coretta Scott was born in 1927 in Marion, Alabama to parents Obadiah and Bernice McMurray Scott. Coretta Scott attended Lincoln High School in Marion, a private school where she first began developing her skills as a musician. She learned to read music, play several instruments, and she also learned to sing by taking vocal lessons. Her developing skill set allowed her to become the pianist and choir director for her church by the age of fifteen. Scott graduated as the valedictorian from Lincoln High School in 1945, she next attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio on a partial scholarship. Scott’s older sister Edythe was the first African-American to attend Antioch College. Coretta Scott’s concentration in college was music and education which she would graduate with a Bachelor’s of Arts around 1949. After graduation she would attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts on a fellowship where she earned an additional degree in voice and violin.
Scott would become an active member of the NAACP, Race Relations and Civil Liberties committees during her time in college. In 1948 Scott would publish an article in Opportunity Magazine titled “Why I Came to College;” she stated that being a college graduate gave her a better chance at freedom of movement, and greater opportunities in life. She would also meet a man by the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. who would eventually become her husband. Scott and King were introduced by Scott’s friend Mary Powell in 1952, the couple was married in 1954 forming a union that would help change the world. The King family would produce four children which Scott was able to balance raising, along with supporting her husband, as well as continuing her own work within the civil rights movement. Scott often performed as a singer during civil rights concerts held during the 1950’s and 60’s, the concerts were heled to help raise funds for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Scott would accompany her husband as they traveled the world petitioning for justice for Black Americans. In 1962, she became active in the disarmament efforts which led her to becoming a part of the Women’s Strike for Peace delegate in the 17-Nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Scott was by her husband’s side as Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his unrelenting stance on liberty through non-violence.
April 4, 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee following his strong stance against the war in Vietnam and his fight for equality. Scott would display her grief because of the loss of her husband but she never slowed down her fight for civil rights. Not long after the burial of Dr. King Scott led a walk fighting for the rights of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. Her next step was to carry on her husband’s anti-Vietnam War message at a rally in New York. She would also be instrumental in the launching of the Poor People’s Campaign in May of 1968; her efforts to help make this world a better place never slowed one bit. Scott served as the founding president and one of the original organizers of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Scott was an avid public speaker and columnist who was very instrumental in creating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as an official holiday. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day became an official holiday in January of 1986. She was also instrumental in creating the 20th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which brought half a million people to Washington D.C. Scott was one of the most vocal opponents of South African apartheid, she participated in demonstrations and sit-ins throughout the world to help bring international attention to the issue. She would also develop a lasting friendship with Winnie Mandela the wife of the South African President Nelson Mandela. The two would remain active in working to help fight for women’s rights and safety. Scott would die in January of 2006 in Mexico at the age of 78 as one of America’s brightest heroes. Scott’s legacy would often go overshadowed by her husband’s legacy but her contributions to humanity are second to none. She was much more than the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; she was a leader, a mother, a musician, an orator, and a fearless agent of change. She traveled the world promoting peace, unity and equality during a time where violence against blacks was at an all-time high. She did not allow fear or racism to hinder her from supporting her husband in helping to make this world a better place. Miss. Coretta Scott King, we proudly, proudly stand on your shoulders.
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