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If you like Coretta Scott King's story, you might also like:
Hank Aaron,
Maya Angelou,
Benazir Bhutto,
Benjamin Carson,
B.B. King,
Frank M. Johnson,
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and Andrew Young

Coretta Scott King can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Coretta Scott King in the Achievement Curriculum area:
The Road to Civil Rights

Coretta Scott King also appears in the videos:
Challenges for the 21st Century
Heroes and the American Dream

Related Links:
The King Center
King Encyclopedia

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Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King
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Coretta Scott King Interview (page: 2 / 4)

Pioneer of Civil Rights

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  Coretta Scott King

Your career goal to be a professional singer was not the way your life turned out. Could you have imagined that you would have the life that you've led and you would be an important part of the Civil Rights Movement?

Coretta Scott King: No, I didn't.

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.

Coretta Scott King Interview Photo
Coretta Scott King Interview Photo

After we married, we moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where my husband had accepted an invitation to be the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Before long, we found ourselves in the middle of the Montgomery bus boycott, and Martin was elected leader of the protest movement. As the boycott continued, I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself, something of profound historic importance. I came to the realization that we had been thrust into the forefront of a movement to liberate oppressed people, not only in Montgomery but also throughout our country, and this movement had worldwide implications. I felt blessed to have been called to be a part of such a noble and historic cause.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

When Dr. King was asked to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott and, in fact, you had just had your first child. What are your memories of those days? What stands out for you?

Coretta Scott King: Well, first of all, I was extremely excited about what was going on because this was something that had never happened before and I knew this was history making, and I also knew that it was not only happening in Montgomery but it was -- the impact of this was maybe much further -- much more extensive than Montgomery because during the Montgomery Boycott we heard that there was a boycott in Johannesburg, South Africa, of busses and also there was one in Mobile and in Tallahassee so it was like it was spreading but we also knew that the struggle was much bigger than a boycott. It was about the injustices in our society. It was about changing the society in such a way and changing the laws of the government locally and certainly nationally we had to create new laws to protect us and protect the rights once they were won.

On a personal level, you had an extraordinary realization during the time of the Montgomery Alabama bus desegration court hearings. Can you take us back to this time in your life and express your personal concerns, but also the results of your soul searching?

Coretta Scott King: We even experienced what was like modern day miracles when things happened. Like when the Supreme Court had ruled on bus desegregation, we were in court that day because the City of Montgomery was having a hearing and was trying to outlaw our transportation system and, if it had, maybe the people would have gotten tired and gone back to the buses. And my husband was very worried and I said to him, "You know what? I think that by the time we go to court and by the time the judge rules that the Supreme Court will have ruled." And we felt that if the Supreme Court ruled it would be in our favor and that was my consolation. Sure enough while we were in court Associated Press -- an Associated Press reporter handed a note to my husband and it said, "The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled today that bus segregation in Montgomery is unconstitutional." So that ended the court session. So it was that kind of thing and intervention again that helped us to realize that we were doing the right thing, and we continued to do that, and more importantly that we had been called. I had been called personally to be in Montgomery at that time because I had always sought my purpose. As a teenager I began to think about what my life was going to be like and going to college. That was one level. Going beyond there was the next level. Going to prepare for a music career but when I got to Boston there was, I realized, another reason for me being there. And then I wondered why Martin Luther King, Jr., a minister, that I didn't think I would ever marry a minister, and then he was going back south, I wanted to go back south but I wasn't prepared to go at that time, because I had to finish my work and finally in Montgomery -- and then things began to happen and the house was bombed. So I did a lot of soul searching after that and tried to remember, you know, try to think back of how I got there and I realized that all my life I had been being prepared for this role and that we were supposed to be there in Montgomery. And it was a great feeling of satisfaction because I realized that I had found my purpose.

Coretta Scott King Interview Photo
Coretta Scott King Interview Photo

But you finished your music education, didn't you? How did you make use of your musical training after your marriage?

Coretta Scott King: I finished Conservatory with a degree in voice and music education, and my second instrument was violin.

I started doing concerts when I was a college student, and after we moved to Montgomery -- my husband was called to a church there -- I continued to perform. I performed concerts the first year, got pregnant, had to stop, performed between babies -- I have four children -- and I was doing standard concerts when I had my fourth child. I realized I could not continue to do that that way. And, I developed the "Freedom Concert" concept, where I narrated the story of the civil rights movement that we were involved in, and sang freedom songs in between the narrations that told the story of our struggle from Montgomery to Washington at that time. In 1964, I did my debut with my Freedom Concert at Town Hall, raised money for the cause, and the rest of the time I raised money for my husband's organization doing Freedom Concerts across the country and so forth.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

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This page last revised on Dec 10, 2013 00:59 EDT
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