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Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King was one of the most influential women leaders in our world. Prepared by her family, education, and personality for a life committed to social justice and peace, she entered the world stage in 1955 as wife of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and as a leading participant in the American Civil Rights Movement. Her remarkable partnership with Dr. King resulted not only in four talented children, but in a life devoted to the highest values of human dignity in service to social change. From the earliest days, she balanced mothering and movement work, speaking before church, civic, college, fraternal and peace groups. She conceived and performed a series of favorably-reviewed Freedom Concerts which combined prose and poetry narration with musical selections and functioned as fundraisers for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the direct action organization of which Dr. King served as first president.
Since her husband's assassination in 1968, Mrs. King devoted much of her energy and attention to developing programs and building the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, the first institution built in memory of an African American leader. As founding President, Chair, and Chief Executive Officer, she dedicated herself to providing local, national and international programs that have trained tens of thousands of people in Dr. King's philosophy and methods; she guided the creation and housing of the largest archives of documents from the Civil Rights Movement; and, perhaps her greatest legacy after establishing The King Center itself, Mrs. King spearheaded the massive educational and lobbying campaign to establish Dr. King's birthday as a national holiday. In January 1986, Mrs. King oversaw the first legal holiday in honor of her husband--a holiday which has come to be celebrated by millions of people world-wide and, in some form, in over 100 countries.
Always close to her family, in 1985 Mrs. King and three of her children were arrested at the South African embassy in Washington, DC, for protesting against apartheid. And, in 1995 she turned over leadership of the Center to her son, Dexter Scott King, who currently serves as Chairman of The Board of Directors. Her nephew, Isaac Newton Farris, Jr. now serves as President & CEO.
Mrs. King received honorary doctorates from over 60 colleges and universities; authored three books and a nationally-syndicated column. She served on, and helped found, dozens of organizations, including the Black Leadership Forum, the National Black Coalition for Voter Participation, and the Black Leadership Roundtable.
Mrs. King dialogued with heads of state, including prime ministers and presidents and she put in time on picket lines with welfare rights mothers. She met with many great spiritual leaders, including Pope John Paul, the Dalai Lama, Dorothy Day, and Bishop Desmond Tutu. She witnessed the historic handshake between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yassir Arafat at the signing of the Middle East Peace Accords. She stood with Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg when he became South Africa's first democratically-elected president. A woman of wisdom, compassion and vision, Coretta Scott King tried to make ours a better world and, in the process, made history.