When your spouse is the iconic Martin Luther King, Jr., it can seem almost impossible to step out of that shadow to establish your own career. Yet Coretta Scott King has done just that, making her own name in activism thanks to the experiences she gained working with her husband during the Civil Rights Movement. In many ways, one could say that she was the greatest woman behind one of the greatest men in history.
1. A Tough Life
Mrs. King was born into a family that was only two generations out of slavery. They were far from wealthy even before the Great Depression came around. At the age of 10, she had to drop out of school to help pick cotton just so her family would have enough money to put food on the table. Despite these challenges, she would still wind up graduating from Lincoln Normal School in 1945 and earn a scholarship to study music in Boston.
2. A Deciding Letter
When her husband was assassinated, Mrs. King was given thousands of letters and telegrams offering her sympathy and support. One message, however, held much more importance than any other for her. It came from the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald.
3. A Changing Perspective
For a preacher’s wife to focus on LGBT rights today and still be able to speak at venues like St. Paul’s Cathedral in London seems unthinkable. Mrs. King made that happen. Her efforts to support equal rights for all would eventually cause her to become the first non-Italian to be offered the Universal Love Award in Verona, Italy.
4. Always a Target
Mrs. King had her home bombed in 1956. In the 1990s, her home was broken into multiple times and she even confronted a man who was known to be killing women in her community at the time. Despite always being a target, she had one mission in mind: to make her husband’s birthday a national holiday. Now the third Monday of January is Martin Luther King Jr. day.
Over the last decade of her life, Mrs. King would even convert to veganism as part of her efforts to establish a transformative atmosphere in the world around her. Her passion to help others is still being followed today, making her and her husband one of the most influential couples of the modern era.