Coretta Scott King

American author, activist, and civil rights leader; wife of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coretta Scott King (27 April 192731 January 2006) was a civil rights activist, author, and wife of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Mother of Yolanda Denise King, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King and Bernice King.

Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation. That is what we have not taught young people, or older ones for that matter. You do not finally win a state of freedom that is protected forever. It doesn't work that way.

Quotes edit

I'm more determined than ever that my husband's dream will become a reality.
No abundance of material goods can compensate for the death of individuality and personal creativity.
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.
I believe that freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience.
Because his task was not finished, I felt that I must re-dedicate myself to the completion of his work.
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.
  • Our Congress passes laws that subsidize corporations, farms, oil companies, airlines, and houses for suburbia, but when they turn their attention to the poor they suddenly become concerned about balancing the budget and cut back on funds for Head Start.
    • Harvard class day address (1968), quoted in International Education Vol. 1, p. 28
  • Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.
    • As quoted in Daughters of the Promised Land, Women in American History (1970) by Page Smith, p. 273
  • Mama and Daddy King represent the best in manhood and womanhood, the best in a marriage, the kind of people we are trying to become.
    • On the parents of her husband, in The Christian Science Monitor (2 July 1974)
  • The more visible signs of protest are gone, but I think there is a realization that the tactics of the late sixties are not sufficient to meet the challenges of the seventies.
    • As quoted in The Quotable Woman (1978) by Elaine Partnow, p. 390
  • 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.
    • As quoted in New Woman, Vol. 16, No. 4 (April 1986), p. 20
  • I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation.
    • As quoted in Shadow in the Land : Homosexuality in America (1989) by William Dannemeyer, p. 148
  • Segregation was wrong when it was forced by white people, and I believe it is still wrong when it is requested by black people.
    • As quoted in The Last Word : A Treasury of Women's Quotes (1992), by Carolyn Warner, p. 99
  • I support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 1994 because I believe that freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. My husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." On another occasion he said, "I have worked too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible." Like Martin, I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.
    So I see this bill as a step forward for freedom and human rights in our country and a logical extension of the Bill of Rights and the civil rights reforms of the 1950s and '60's.
    The great promise of American democracy is that no group of people will be forced to suffer discrimination and injustice. I believe that this legislation will provide protection to a large group of working people, who have suffered persecution and discrimination for many years. To this endeavor, I pledge my wholehearted support.
    • Press Conference on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 1994, Washington D.C. (23 June 1994)
  • I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.
    • Reuters (31 March 1998)
  • 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. This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group.
    • Chicago Defender (1 April 1998)
  • I've always felt that homophobic attitudes and policies were unjust and unworthy of a free society and must be opposed by all Americans who believe in democracy.
    • Chicago Sun Times (1 April 1998)
  • For many years now, I have been an outspoken supporter of civil and human rights for gay and lesbian people. Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Ga. and St. Augustine, Fla., and many other campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions
    • Chicago Tribune (1 April 1998)
  • On April 3, 1968, just before he was killed, Martin delivered his last public address. In it he spoke of the visit he and I made to Israel. Moreover, he spoke to us about his vision of the Promised Land, a land of justice and equality, brotherhood and peace. Martin dedicated his life to the goals of peace and unity among all peoples, and perhaps nowhere in the world is there a greater appreciation of the desirability and necessity of peace than in Israel.
    • As quoted in Jewish Currents, Vol. 52, (April 1998), p 13
  • We have a lot more work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination. I say "common struggle" because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination.
  • We have to launch a national campaign against homophobia in the black community
    • Reuters (8 June 2001)
  • 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.
    • As quoted in Mary Lou Retton's Gateways to Happiness (2000) by Mary Lou Retton, David Bender, p. 213
  • Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.
    • As quoted in Understanding Cultural Diversity in Today's Complex World‎ (2006) by Leo Parvis, p. 54
  • There is a Mrs. King. There is also Coretta. How one became detached from the other remains a mystery to me. Most people who have followed my career from afar, or even given me a second thought, know me as Mrs. King: the wife of, the widow of, the mother of, the leader of. Makes me sound like the attachments that come with my vacuum cleaner. In one sense, I don't mind that at all. I'm proud to have been a wife, a single parent, and a leader. But I am more than a label. I am also Coretta. Isn't it time you know the integrated, holistic woman: one spirit, one soul, one destiny? In reading this memoir, I hope somehow you see Coretta.
    • Coretta: My Life, My Love, My Legacy (2017)

My Life with Martin Luther King Jr., Revised Edition (1969/1993) edit

Coretta Scott King not only secured her husband's legacy, she built her own … Having loved a leader, she became a leader, and when she spoke, Americans listened closely. ~ George W. Bush
  • Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation. That is what we have not taught young people, or older ones for that matter. You do not finally win a state of freedom that is protected forever. It doesn't work that way.
    • p. xiii
  • Because his task was not finished, I felt that I must re-dedicate myself to the completion of his work.

Quotes about Coretta Scott King edit

  • Coretta King said the greatest violence is seeing a child go to bed hungry. These are the great violences: assaults on the body and soul.
    • 1974 interview in Conversations with Maya Angelou edited by Jeffrey M. Elliot (1989)
  • In the midst of national tumult, in the medium of international violent uproar, Coretta Scott King's face remained a study in serenity. In times of interior violent storms she sat, her hands resting in her lap calmly, like good children sleeping. Her passion was never spent in public display. She offered her industry and her energies to action, toward righting ancient and current wrongs in this world. She believed religiously in non-violent protest. She believed it could heal a nation mired in a history of slavery and all its excesses. She believed non-violent protest religiously could lift up a nation rife with racial prejudices and racial bias. She was a quintessential African-American woman, born in the small town repressive South, born of flesh and destined to become iron, born -- born a cornflower and destined to become a steel magnolia. She loved her church fervently. She loved and adored her husband and her children. She cherished her race. She cherished women. She cared for the conditions of human beings, of native Americans and Latin -- Latinos and Asian Americans. She cared for gay and straight people. She was concerned for the struggles in Ireland, and she prayed for nightly for Palestine and equally for Israel...Many times on those late after -- evenings she would say to me, "Sister, it shouldn't be an 'either-or', should it? Peace and justice should belong to all people, everywhere, all the time. Isn't that right?" And I said then and I say now, "Coretta Scott King, you're absolutely right. I do believe that peace and justice should belong to every person, everywhere, all the time."
  • The visitors were a tremendous support. I talked to about 150 the 1st Saturday and about 300 the 2nd Saturday. A lot were women. It gives you a tremendous feeling. I was very happy that Coretta King, Ethel Kennedy and Bishop Flores came. They did a lot of good for me spiritually and an awful lot of good to the people.
    • Cesar Chavez December 1970 interview with El Malcriado after release from incarceration, anthologized in An Organizer’s Tale (2008)
  • Many people don’t know that my mother was the driving force that kept my father’s legacy at the forefront of American consciousness. Dr. King was a great man, a scholar, philosopher, theologian, orator—a leader with character and integrity. But in 1968 there was no guarantee that he would be in the annals of history the way that he is today had it not been for her solidifying his legacy. It was her primary goal to institutionalize his work, and she was the architect of the King legacy as we know it today. The King Center was a way for her to codify the methodology and ideology of the movement and give it longevity. Even with respect to the holiday in January, she worked to define it beyond memorializing him. She created the idea of a day “on,” as opposed to a day “off.” She wanted it to become a holiday of community service so that people felt connected to his work and understood that the struggle continues. She believed that sacrifice is not something that is unrewarding. And ultimately, she wanted his legacy to expand into the realm of human rights. The journey began with civil rights for African Americans, but that was only just the beginning.
  • I am indebted to my wife Coretta, without whose love, sacrifices, and loyalty neither life nor work would bring fulfillment. She has given me words of consolation when I needed them and a well-ordered home where Christian love is a reality.

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