"The life story of Coretta Scott King--wife of Martin Luther King Jr., founder of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and singular twentieth-century American civil rights activist--as told fully for the first time, toward the end of her life, to one of her closest friends Born in 1927 to daringly enterprising black parents in the Deep South, Coretta Scott had always felt called to a special purpose. One of the first black scholarship students recruited to Antioch College, a committed pacifist, and a civil rights activist, she was an avowed feminist--a graduate student determined to pursue her own career--when she met Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister insistent that his wife stay home with the children. But in love and devoted to shared Christian beliefs and racial justice goals, she married King, and events promptly thrust her into a maelstrom of history throughout which she was a strategic partner, a standard bearer, a marcher, a negotiator, and a crucial fundraiser in support of world-changing achievements. As a widow and single mother of four, while butting heads with the all-male African American leadership of the times, she championed gay rights and AIDS awareness, founded the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, lobbied for fifteen years to help pass a bill establishing the US national holiday in honor of her slain husband, and was a powerful international presence, serving as a UN ambassador and playing a key role in Nelson Mandela's election. Coretta's is a love story, a family saga, and the memoir of an independent-minded black woman in twentieth-century America, a brave leader who stood committed, proud, forgiving, nonviolent, and hopeful in the face of terrorism and violent hatred every single day of her life."--Provided by publisher.
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I found it sad to learn that in many of the events, women were not encouraged to attend. For example, she was not invited to go with Martin to meet then President John Kennedy after the very successful march on Washington. She literally walked by Martin's side for hundreds of marches. Trained in college for a life of operatic singing, when she met Martin, all that changed.
She noted many behind the scenes bickering regarding who received the most attention, but overall knew that even though the paths were different, the cause remained the same.
Strong, resilient and beautiful, Coretta was instrumental in keeping the memories of MLK, Jr. alive, long after his assignation, There is such beauty in her portrayal of family life with Martin and their four children.
Ms. King’s life while her husband was still alive is told chronologically. However, the portion after his death is arranged topically such as building the King Center; participating politically including campaigning for Jimmy Carter and later George McGovern for president; briefly serving as a public delegate to the United Nations; working to get Martin Luther King’s birthday recognized as a national holiday; and being involved with struggles concerning South Africa. There is also a chapter discussing her children including both their lives growing up and as adults.
The topical arrangement creates some problems since the book goes back and forth during time. Often the month and day of an event will be mentioned but not the year – a problem which also occasionally occurred in the chronological section. Also, some of the writing is informal; persons are mentioned only by first name.
A strength of the account is that setbacks and disputes are discussed, naturally from Coretta Scott King’s viewpoint. There was dissention in the civil rights movement, before and after Martin Luther King’s death. Her problems with other civil rights leaders on various issues are discussed. The King Center cost twenty million dollars to build, and some of the people hired to staff it were poor choices. Throughout the book, Ms. King is portrayed as a strong person, who was keenly interested in improving social conditions. She also had a strong support network, particularly of family members. She was an amazing person.
This advance reader’s edition does not include the photo insert or index.
I was absolutely blown away by this biography, which is told in Coretta's voice but written by Dr Barbara Reynolds after Mrs King's death in 2006 ('There are some things in this book I believe she did not want said in her lifetime'). She was such an amazing, strong, determined, intelligent and inspired woman, who felt her own calling but joined with her husband to support his larger role as a civil rights leader and 'president of black America' in the 1950s and 1960s. I learned so much about them both, to be honest - I didn't know that MLK was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 or survived a near fatal knife attack ('If Martin had sneezed, he would have died'). When JFK was assassinated in 1963, King said 'This is exactly what's going to happen to me', and started living and working like every day might be his last.
I think it's right that Coretta finally got to have her say. They were partners when they were married, although she is quick to point out the chauvinism of the era that reduced her to a stay at home wife ('such a waste of a woman's creativity, talent and energy'), but she really came into her own after his assassination in 1968. Like Jackie Kennedy, Coretta kept her husband's memory alive, but she also went one step further, establishing the King Centre to promote King's principles of nonviolence, and campaigned tirelessly to have his birthday made a national holiday (Stevie Wonder's song 'Happy Birthday' was written in honour of MLK). She has also been a diplomat and a delegate in her own right, travelling to South Africa during Apartheid, and was accused of betraying the civil rights cause by Jesse Jackson - 'I really consider myself a human rights activist', she explains.
'I have a purpose. I have a mission, and I have carried it out on the world stage.'
Covering every subject from her marriage ('I never said he was perfect') and her role in the Montgomery bus boycott, to losing her husband to a government assassin's bullet and learning to continue their shared vision of the 'Beloved Community' alone, with all the ugly racism in between (sadly not a lot has changed), everyone should read Coretta's memoirs and learn more about two of the most noble figures in modern Black American history.
Mrs. King tells a page-turning story of how her experiences as a child