Celebrating Labor Activist Coretta Scott King

Celebrating Labor Activist Coretta Scott King

Happy Black History Month! We are continuing to celebrate this month by exploring Black labor activists. As noted before, the phenomenal achievements and great strides the Black community has made should be celebrated and shared. This week, we are sharing a glimpse of the life of Coretta Scott King, a well-known woman often overlooked for her accomplishments.

Early Life

Coretta Scott was born in Heiberger, Alabama, on April 27, 1927. She was her parents, Obadiah Scott and Bernice McMurry Scott’s third child. She came from a family of excellence and high achievements. Despite having little education, her mother worked as a school bus driver, church pianist, and she ran a clothing store with her husband. Coretta’s father had many business ventures. He owned a general store and a lumber mill, along with his clothing shop. He was also one of the first Black people in their town to own a vehicle and previously worked as a policeman. 


Coretta’s maternal grandfather, Martin van Buren McMurry, owned a 280-acre farm. He also taught himself how to read and later inspired Coretta in her drive for education. Her paternal grandfather Jeff Scott was a farmer and a prominent figure in his black religious community.


Hard work and education were essential in Scott’s family, and Coretta quickly learned about both. She worked picking cotton at age ten to help her family and attended a one-room elementary school near her home. She went to Lincoln Normal School during her teen years, where she was the lead soprano in the senior chorus. She also played the trumpet and piano, sang in the choir, participated in musicals, and graduated as valedictorian in 1945. 


Coretta lived up to her mother’s expectations when she went to college. She recalled her mother saying, “My children are going to college, even if it means I only have but one dress to put on.” She enrolled in Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Her sister, Edythe, was already attending. She was the first Black student to enroll. She also recruited other Black students as a part of Antioch’s interracial education integration program. 


Scott studied music and became active in politics. She joined the Antioch chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the college’s Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees. After being denied to continue her education at Antioch, she won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She soon met her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., through a mutual friend. After dating for some time, they were married on June 18, 1953. Upon completing her education in September 1954, she moved with King to Montgomery, Alabama.

Celebrating Labor Activist Coretta Scott King

The Civil Rights Movement

Martin became a full-time pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church on September 1, 1954. Coretta put her musical career behind her and became active in the church. They had their first child Yolanda on November 17, 1955. Soon after, she and Martin got involved in the Civil Rights Movement, starting with the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1956

Celebrating Labor Activist Coretta Scott King


Coretta is largely known as Martin’s wife, but there is so much more to her story. She supported Martin behind the scenes, but she was also a mediator and liaison for peace and justice organizations around the world. She helped to bring the idea of equality to developing nations such as Ghana, which was a large part of how the country obtained their independence in 1957. She was also a part of a pilgrimage in India in 1959.” She worked to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and upon her husband’s assassination in 1968, she continued his hard work, excelling in the legacy they created together.


Coretta was also a labor activist. After her husband died, she rallied support for hospital employees on strike or recently fired in Charleston, South Carolina. She encouraged them to unionize since they performed some of the most difficult work. She stated, 


“One thing that hospital workers, Black, white or brown, have in common all over the country is that they are poor, they are terribly exploited, and they need a union more than anybody else. That is why I’m with you. And you can count on me to stay with you in your fight for justice, for human rights and for dignity.” 

More Accomplishments

Mrs. Coretta Scott King was a phenomenal woman who accomplished so much during her lifetime. She influenced change during a pivotal moment in history. Here are more of her accomplishments:


  • From 1968 to 1983, she fought to have Martin’s birthday institutionalized as a national holiday.
  • In 1969, she published her memoir, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr. 
  • She founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, GA, and served as the president and chief executive officer.
  • In 1980, she became a regular commentator on CNN, discussing social and political issues while writing articles and publishing a syndicated column.
  • In 2005, her alma mater, Antioch College at Yellow Springs, created the Coretta Scott King Center in her honor. It is a learning center that addresses issues of race, class, gender, diversity, and social justice.


In August of 2005, Coretta suffered a heart attack and stroke. She shortly passed away on January 30, 2006. Her and Martin’s legacy continues through their beautiful children. Coretta will always be remembered for the incredible person she was and the beautiful contribution she has made to the earth. 


Thank you, Mrs. Scott King.


Happy Black History Month.

Celebrating Labor Activist Coretta Scott King

Celebrating Labor Activist Coretta Scott King

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