UPDATED: 9:10 a.m. ET, April 27, 2021 —
Coretta Scott King was born on this day in 1927 in Marion, Alabama. Known as the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she was an activist in her own right who was also a passionate advocate for civil rights and was by her husband’s side during some of the most trying times.
Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King, posted a heartfelt Twitter tribute to her mother on Tuesday to mark what would have been her 94th birthday.
Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King, quoted his mother in a tweet to underscore the effect she had on his life.
“Mom had one of the purest and strongest hearts I know. Today, I’m thinking about her words: ‘When the heart is right, the mind and the body will follow,'” King III tweeted. “How can we all lead with compassion in our heart, mind, and body like #CorettaScottKing did?”
More than 15 years after her death in 2006, Coretta Scott King’s legacy lives on. It was only on Monday that Bank of America pledged $1 million to a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King in Boston, where she attended the New England Conservatory of Music on a fellowship in voice. She and Dr. King both moved there separately in 1951, met each other on a blind date in 1952, married in 1953 and then moved to Atlanta to embark on a historic civil rights journey.
Dr. King once said about his wife: “My devoted wife has been a constant source of consolation to me through all the difficulties. In the midst of the most tragic experiences, she never became panicky or over-emotional. I have come to see the real meaning of that rather trite statement: a wife can either make or break a husband. My wife was always stronger than I was through the struggle.”
He continued, “Corrie proved to be that type of wife with qualities to make a husband when he could have been so easily broken. In the darkest moments, she always brought the light of hope. I am convinced that if I had not had a wife with the fortitude, strength, and calmness of Corrie, I could not have withstood the ordeals and tensions surrounding the movement.”
After King’s assassination, Coretta Scott King continued to be a fearless and passionate activist for civil rights for everyone from the LGBT community to poverty-stricken communities. She opposed apartheid in South Africa. In 1983, she insisted on the amendment of the Civil Rights Act including the LGBT community as a protected class. She was also the force behind the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday, which many opposed but was signed into law in 1983.
Coretta Scott King died in 2006 at the age of 78 but her legacy lives on. Keep reading to find some of her most powerful and enduring quotes below.
1. On Activism & Politics:Source:Getty
“Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.”
2. On Fighting The Struggle:Source:Getty
“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.”
3. On Her Purpose:Source:Getty
“I always felt that what was happening in Montgomery was part of God’s will and purpose, and we were put there to be in the forefront of that struggle, and it wasn’t just a struggle relegated to Montgomery, Alabama or the South, but that it had worldwide implications. And I felt, really, a sense of fulfillment that I hadn’t felt before, that this was really what I was supposed to be doing, and it was a great blessing to have discovered this, and to be doing what was God’s will for your life.”
4. On Life:Source:Getty
“I’m fulfilled in what I do. I never thought that a lot of money or fine clothes – the finer things of life – would make you happy. My concept of happiness is to be filled in a spiritual sense.”
5. On Hate:Source:Getty
“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.”
6. On MLK:Source:Getty
“I don’t think that my husband, although he said he was going to go back south and fight to change the system — and he was thinking about not just in Alabama or in Georgia, but he was talking about making our society more inclusive, changing the system so that everybody could participate — although he talked about that at that time, we never dreamed that we would have an opportunity, that we would be projected into the forefront of the struggle as we were. We were just going to work from, as he said, a Black Baptist Church pulpit. That was the freest place in the society at that time, but we had no idea what God had in store for us. And I do believe it was divine intervention that we were thrust into the forefront of the struggle.”
7. On The Strength Of Communities:Source:Getty
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members … a heart of grace and a soul generated by love.”
8. On Women’s Voting Rights:Source:Getty
“If American women would increase their voting turnout by ten percent, I think we would see an end to all of the budget cuts in programs benefiting women and children.”
9. On Finding Her Purpose After MLK’s Death:Source:Getty
: “I prayed that God would give me the direction for my life, to give me the strength to do what it was, and the ability to do what it was that he had called me to do. And I was trying to seek, ‘What is it that I’m supposed to do, now that Martin is no longer here?'”
10. On Juggling Motherhood & Fighting For Freedom:Source:Getty
“People asked me how was I able to do this and raise four children at the same time. I can only reply that when God calls you to a great task, he provides you with the strength to accomplish what he has called you to do. Faith and prayer, family and friends were always available when I needed them, and of course Martin and I always were there for each other.”
11. On LBGT Rights:Source:Getty
“Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood.”
12. On Finding Peace:Source:Getty
“There is a spirit and a need and a man at the beginning of every great human advance. Every one of these must be right for that particular moment of history, or nothing happens.”