Coretta Scott King: More than the Wife of a King

Coretta Scott King in college.

Coretta Scott King in college.

“If a man had nothing that was worth dying for, then he was not fit to live.”
~ Coretta Scott King

There are some women that just make a lasting impression. It doesn’t matter when you meet them or for how long, once you do, you’re just impressed. I’m sitting at my computer researching an article I’m writing about the early years of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King’s relationship and something strange happened. I realized that I was falling in love with Coretta Scott King, Dr. King has been gone for a while and so has she but I almost felt as though I was doing something wrong.

I just couldn’t help it though, the more I read about her, the more I became fascinated by not just her strength after he was assassinated but with the woman she was before she became his wife. I could go into full writer mode and break it down but we live in a 15 minutes of less society so I’ll make it simple.

I’ll tell you all why she may be my favorite woman of all time!

One- When she was ten she picked cotton with her siblings so that her family could have extra money. Her father was the first black man in their town to own his own pickup truck and he built a lumber mill. When he refused to sell it they white men in the town burned it down. She knew struggle, sacrifice and hard work from an early age.

Two- Her sister was the first African American girl to go to an all white college. She took it one step further and tried to be the first woman to become a teacher in that district but they wouldn’t let her. So she left and took a scholarship at a college in Boston. She was willing to fight but knew that some battles just couldn’t be won.

Three- She’s a sorority girl. A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha to be exact. Who doesn’t love a sorority girl?

Four- She gave up her singing career to be the wife of a Baptist Preacher in Alabama. She wasn’t singing in lounges and clubs she was a degreed, talented opera singer. For her love and being with a man that could make a difference mattered more than her career.

Five- She’s gorgeous and all we have is black and white pictures. Could you imagine what she would look like in color and if she had Instagram filters? Beautiful, brave, hard working, smart and can sing? She’d be huge!

Six- The first time she met Dr. King’s father he told her that he didn’t think a singing career was cool for a minister’s wife. She told him, “Who told you I was taking your son seriously?” She then told Martin that she couldn’t talk to a man that couldn’t stand up to his father. She also asked that the word “obey” be removed from her vows. This was in the 1950’s where women rarely spoke up like that. That’s confidence and heart.

Seven- After his death she hesitated in taking a leadership role in the Civil Rights Movement but eventually she did and she kept his legacy and the legacy they created together going.

Eight- She was cool with JFK, everyone wants to be cool with JFK.

Nine- MLK Day, the King Center in Atlanta, all of these are monuments to her husband that she built. She was the one that pushed through legislation to get her husband a Holiday because of all he’d done. She was the one that fought Boston University to get his papers even though she lost.

Ten- She never remarried after Dr. King, never dated or gave her time to any other men. For as long as she lived she kept her vows even though he was gone. That’s loyalty, that’s incredibly cool.

Legacies and Dreams…

Last week I was messing around with this website that does this face mash thing where they take two faces and create a baby. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world until I realized all the children looked the same no matter who the parents were. But it did get me to thinking, I’ve never really known my father on a personal level and I can’t say how that’s impacted me. I’ve had good role models in my life.

But I’m sure it has in some sense or another. How could it not?

I often think about my son though or who my son will be. I think the dream of any father, of any man is that your child becomes a better person than you were. Is that you leave him a legacy and a path that will allow him to be great. I don’t know who his mom will be let alone what he’ll look like or what his passions will be but I do feel like I’m creating a legacy for him.

Him being proud of me when the day comes is what matters to me most. Him standing up in a classroom and talking about how cool I am or how I read to him.

When I think of Dr. King on a personal level I think of the legacy he left his children, his wife. They had to share him with an entire community, a race, a cause. I’m sure he missed a lot of birthdays and little league games but it was for the greater good and how can you not be proud of that if you’re his children?

MLK had a dream that the world he came into wouldn’t be the same world his grandchildren came into to, that his children grew up in and that came to fruition. More than the speeches, the photos and the quotes is his sacrifice. Because not many are willing to give up what he gave up, to leave your family and peace for a greater good!

When I do have my son and I’m going on book tours or working crazy hours so that he could go to schools I didn’t go to or travel to places I couldn’t I want him to know this didn’t start with me. This started with the men and women that made these sacrifices in 1963, 1964, 1972… I want him to not only have a sense of what I’m giving up to make sure he becomes great but I want him to know what others before he was even thought of gave up.

Today isn’t just about celebrating a man, today is about remembering a legacy of selflessness that is rarely seen anymore. He didn’t run for office or try to build a mega church, he marched, turned the other cheek and pushed for real reform. And it’s not just about Dr. King, it’s about the countless others that were there with him.

My son will be a better man than me as I am a better man than my father. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what could have been but I do I will forever have a voice. And for better or worse I will use it and I will make a legacy and I will keep fulfilling his dream!

Demez F. White