10 Facts about Coretta Scott King
King was more than MLK Jr.’s widow, but an activist herself.
While Coretta Scott King lived much of her life in the shadow of her husband, the civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., her life was an inspiration to many. She was an activist who sometimes took controversial positions that alienated civil rights leaders. Learn more about Coretta Scott King’s legacy with the highlights below about her life, which ended in 2006, when she was 78.
Coretta Scott King was born in Alabama but died in a far more exotic locale—Rosarito, Mexico. She was 78 and died after a series of health problems, including a stroke and a heart attack.
Growing up, King’s family was impoverished but better off than most of the families in the Heiberger, Ala., area because they owned land and a country store.
King graduated at the top of her high school class in 1945 and went on to study at Antioch College in Ohio.
When she met MLK Jr., King was studying music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 1952. She wanted to be a classical singer.
She rejected MLK’s marriage proposals several times before she finally agreed to wed him.
After marrying MLK, she was equally as interested in civil rights as he was. She put her education in the arts to use by singing and reciting poetry during Freedom Concerts to raise money for the civil rights movement. She also participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and fought to get the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed.
A vocal supporter of gay rights, King said during a 2004 speech at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, “Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.”
King faced criticism for supporting the exoneration of her husband’s convicted assassin, James Earl Ray. Ray initially pleaded guilty to killing King but then recanted.
In 1968, the year following MLK’s assassination, King released a memoir about their marriage called "My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr."
King fought for 15 years to have her husband’s birthday turned into a national holiday.
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