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« An Interview With Democrat Nancy Hirstein Smith | Main | »

Coretta Scott King- Civil Rights Leader

By Angelo Lopez
August 4, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. is justifiably viewed as a hero by many people around the world. He's been one of my biggest heroes. One of the great heroes that is often overlooked is his wife, Coretta Scott King. Coretta Scott King is a strong civil rights leader in her own right, as well as an outspoken advocate of women's rights, the peace movement, the anti-apartheid movement, a foe of capital punishment, and an opponent of the Iraq War. King's efforts to end the Vietnam War led the FBI to keep surveillance on her from 1968 to 1972. Due to her efforts in promoting education, the American Library Association began in 1970 to award a medal named for Coretta Scott King to honor outstanding African American writers and illustrators of children's literature. In 2006, the Jewish National Fund announced the creation of the Coretta Scott King Forest in the Galilee region of Northern Israel to commemorate King's work for equality and peace. This blog will showcase some youtube videos that highlight Coretta Scott King's work for social justice

A youtube video of the life of Coretta Scott King


Coretta Scott King was deeply involved in the modern Civil Rights movement early on, participating in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. In the early 1960s, Mrs. King conceived and performed a series of Freedom Concerts, which combined prose and poetry narration with musical selections, and raised important funds for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during their civil rights campaigns. She was very active in advocating civil rights legislation, most prominently in lobbying for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Coretta organized the Full Employment Action Council in 1974, which focused on ending unemployment and job inequalities in the United States. In 1983, she organized the Coalition of Conscience, which brought 800 organizations together for the task of organizing the 20th Anniversary March on Washington. In 1987, she helped lead a national Mobilization Against Fear and Intimidation campaign in Forsyth County, Georgia.

A youtube interview of Coretta Scott King talking about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the early Civil Rights Movement


Coretta Scott King was an early advocate for nuclear disarmament and for pacifist causes. In 1957, Mrs. King was one of the founders of The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy along with Lenore Marshall and Norman Cousins and others due to their concerns about the nuclear arms race. In 1962, Coretta was a delegate for the Women’s Strike for Peace at the 17-nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. King strongly opposed the war in Vietnam, and she prodded her husband to speak out against the war. She took part in peace marches with SANE spokesman Benjamin Spock in San Francisco and Washington D.C. in 1965 and spoke at the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom conference in the late 1960s. Three weeks after the assasination of her husband, Coretta delivered a speech at an anti-war rally in New York City. In 1990, Mrs. King was co-convener of the Soviet-American Women’s Summit in Washington, DC. During the early 2000s, Mrs. King spoke out against the invasion of Iraq.

A youtube video of an interview where Coretta Scott King talks about her involvement in the peace movement


In 1985 Mrs. King and three of her children, Yolanda, Martin III and Bernice were arrested at the South African embassy in Washington, DC, for protesting against apartheid. The next year, she traveled to South Africa and met Winnie Mandela. After her trip, Mrs. King lobbied President Reagan to impose economic sanctions on South Africa.

Coretta Scott King speaking Soweta, South Africa to introduce Dr. Leon Howard Sullivan


Coretta Scott King was a strong supporter of LGBT rights because of her appreciation of the contributions of gays and lesbians to the Civil Rights movement, especially gay civil rights leaders like Bayard Rustin, Pauli Murray, James Baldwin, and Langston Hughes. On April 1, 1998 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Mrs. King called on the civil rights community to join in the struggle for LGBT rights. Coretta Scott King spoke in November 2003 at the opening session of the 13th annual Creating Change Conference, organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. On March 23, 2004, at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, New Jersey,, Mrs. King said that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue and she denounced a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that would ban equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. King also criticized a group of black pastors in Georgia for supporting a bill that would amend the Georgia constitution to block gay marriage.

Coretta Scott King speaking at the 1996 Atlanta Pride Festival


Mrs. King founded and developed the programs for the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. For several years, she served President, Chair, and Chief Executive Officer of the center, and promoted the center's educational and community programs to train a new generation of activists on the nonviolent advocacy of causes that both Martin and Coretta Scott King fought for their entire lives. After the establishment of the center, Mrs. King spearheaded the campaign to establish Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday. In 1983, an act of Congress instituted the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, which Mrs. King chaired for its duration.

Coretta Scott King talks about the Martin Luther King Jr. Center

Youtube videos of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta

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