Coretta Scott King (April 27, 1927 – January 30, 2006) was an American author, activist, and civil rights leader. The widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King helped lead the African American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
Mrs. King played a prominent role in the years after her husbands 1968 assassination when she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the Women’s Movement and the LGBT right movement.
Coretta Scott King was the third of four children born to Obadiah “Obe” Scott (1899–1998) and Bernice McMurray Scott (1904–1996) in Marion, Alabama. She had an older sister named Edythe Scott Bagley (1924–2011) an older sister named Eunice who did not survive childhood, and a younger brother named Obadiah Leonard, born in 1930. According to a DNA analysis, she descended, mainly, from people of Mende People of Sierra Leone. The Scott family had owned a farm since the American Civil War, but were not particularly wealthy.During the Great Depression the Scott children picked cotton to help earn money. Obe was the first black person in their neighborhood to own a truck. He ran a barber shop from their home and also owned a lumber mill, which was burned down by white neighbors, after Scott refused to sell his mill to a white logger.
Though lacking formal education themselves, Coretta Scott’s parents intended for all of their children to be educated. Coretta quoted her mother as having said, “My children are going to college, even if it means I only have but one dress to put on.”The Scott children attended a one room elementary school 5 miles from their home and were later bused to Lincoln Normal School, which despite being 9 mi (14 km) from their home, was the closest black high school in Marion, Alabama, due to racial segregation in schools. The bus was driven by Coretta’s mother Bernice, who bused all the local black teenagers.
Coretta Scott graduated valedictorian of Lincoln Normal School in 1945 where she played trumpet and piano, sang in the chorus, and participated in school musicals and enrolled at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Her older sister Edythe already attended Antioch as part of the Antioch Program for Interracial Education, which recruited non-white students and gave them full scholarships in an attempt to diversify the historically white campus. Coretta said of her first college:
Antioch had envisioned itself as a laboratory in democracy, but had no black students. (Edythe) became the first African American to attend Antioch on a completely integrated basis, and was joined by two other black female students in the fall of 1943. Pioneering is never easy, and all of us who followed my sister at Antioch owe her a great debt of gratitude.
Happy Birthday Coretta Scott King!