Born April 27, 1927, Coretta Scott was the third of four children to Obadiah “Obie” Scott and Bernice McMurry Scott in Marion, Alabama.
Coretta Scott graduated valedictorian from Lincoln Normal School in 1945 where she played trumpet and piano, sang in the chorus, and participated in school musicals and enrolled at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio during her senior year at Lincoln. After being accepted to Antioch, Scott applied for Interracial Scholarship Fund for financial aid. The Antioch Program for Interracial Education was created to recruit non-white students and gave them full scholarships in an attempt to diversify the historically white campus. Coretta said of her first college:
Antioch had envisioned itself as a laboratory in democracy, but had no black students. Edythe (her older sister) became the first African American to attend Antioch on a completely integrated basis, and was joined by two other black female students in the fall of 1943. Pioneering is never easy, and all of us who followed my sister at Antioch owe her a great debt of gratitude.
Coretta studied music with Walter Anderson, the first non-white chair of an academic department in a historically white college. She also became politically active, due largely to her experience of racial discrimination by the local school board. She became active in the nascent civil rights movement; 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.
Coretta transferred out of Antioch when she won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. It was while studying singing here she would meet Martin Luther King, Jr. whom she would later marry. Together with Martin, she helped lead the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. King often participated in many of her husband’s exploits and goals during the battle for African-American equality.
Mrs. King played a prominent role in the years after her husband’s 1968 assassination when she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the Women’s Movement and the LGBT rights movement. King founded the King Center and sought to make his birthday a national holiday.
King went through several procedures and was put down many times before in the mid-1980s, she finally succeeded with Ronald Reagan’s signing of the legislation legalizing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. She expanded her views to include opposition to apartheid and tried to establish homosexual rights as being part of her husband’s wishes.
On January 30, 2006, Coretta Scott King died after suffering from respiratory failure.
–adapted from Coretta Scott King