Honoring the Words and Work of Coretta Scott King on the 15th Anniversary of Her Passing

Every January the world pauses to observe the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The month of January, however, also is a very somber one for the King family as it is the month that their beloved matriarch, Coretta Scott King passed away. The world primarily came to know of Coretta as the wife of Martin and mother of their four children, but her legacy throughout the Civil Rights movement and in the aftermath of her husband’s celebration is one of service, women’s advocacy and leadership in the movement for equality.

Coretta moved in union and solidarity with her husband in spite of countless death threats, their house being bombed and extreme FBI surveillance. She was a critical component of the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, a contributor to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and an in-demand speaker and orator.

After her husband’s assassination, Coretta worked tirelessly to create and serve as the Founding President of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, commonly known as The King Center. She also used her enormous platform to travel the world speaking out on behalf of racial and economic justice, women’s and children’s rights, LGBT rights, religious freedom, the needs of the poor and homeless, full employment, and nuclear disarmament.

The following is an excerpt from her history-making address at Harvard University on July 1, 1968, just three months shy of Martin’s assassination where she called upon students at the prestigious institution to “hold high the banner of freedom” amid extremely turbulent times of civil unrest.

“The political scene in our country has never been so marked by student action, and it is not reckless to predict that this is no apparent phenomenon but a fundamental shift in social patterns that will distinguish this era from others past. Along with classes and races and conventional pressure groups, generations are now useful in appropriate categories of historical action and understanding. It is a totally novel development and a paradoxical one that students, most of whom have no vote, emerge as a formidable political force for progressive change,” Coretta said to the audience of graduating Harvard seniors.

Echoing sentiments of her late husband who was invited to speak but was killed before the engagement, Corretta reminded a group of predominantly white students of the power and responsibility young people holds in creating a shift in social patterns to advance progress.


About the Author

Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate, and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be

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