Friday, January 27, 2017

Coretta Scott King Tells All

In her later years Coretta Scott King shared her story with her chosen biographer, Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, resulting in the posthumous autobiography My Life My Love My Legacy.

Most remember Coretta as the wife of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Coretta wanted us to know who she was, not only as the supporter and partner in her husband 's work but in her own right as a life-long pacifist and human rights leader.

Coretta's courage and determination was sustained by her deep Christian faith, which gave her strength to endure what would break those of us made of baser metal.

From her childhood she was cognizant of racism; as her father endeavored to run businesses to support her family he was victimized, his businesses destroyed. The family home, built by Coretta's grandfather, was burned to the ground, and her uncle lynched. Her education was sub par and yet she won a scholarship to Antioch College.

Coretta had the gift of song and music and planned to pursue a career as a concert singer. Then a friend introduced her to a young minister who wanted a wife; his standards were very high and he was frustrated that he would never find his perfect helpmate. Until he met Coretta.

At their first meeting Martin Luther King Jr. identified Coretta as the woman of his dreams--a woman with character, intelligence, personality, and beauty. She quickly found herself falling in love. Leaving her dream of performance behind she instead graduated with a music education degree. Coretta, raised Methodist, found herself a Baptist minister's wife with all it's obligations and limitations, living in a parsonage.

Martin and Coretta shared a commitment to pacifism and a dream of social justice in America. Coretta was a strong, independent, and committed woman who sometimes chaffed at Martin's expectations to be wife and mother and keeper of the home fire as he went out to slay dragons. She considered herself an equal partner in her husband's work and not just a helpmate. She aided in fundraising through Freedom Concerts and speeches. She offered Martin a safe haven were he could grapple with depression and dejection, seeking renewal through prayer and introspection.

Coretta covers the harrowing stories of non-violent protests met with hatred, murder, beatings, and police brutality. That the freedom fighters were able to forgive these actions can only be attributed to their deep faith. At times I had to put the book down; at times I found myself in tears. I know about these events, yet Coretta's words affected me deeply.

The later part of the story, after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., we see Coretta blossom into leadership on her own. She tells about her work creating the King Center, establishing Martin Luther King Day, her anti-war work and support of feminism, and attacking Apartheid. We learn that she makes mistakes and learns from them. We hear her anger when she and other women leaders in the movement were sidelined. She shares her feelings about presidential support, or lack of support, of her causes. She rejects stories about her husband's infidelity as lies and holds a belief that government agencies were behind the murder of her husband. And she talks about her children.

The publication of Coretta's autobiography is timely, a lesson in how resistance movements can alter policy, raise awareness, and impact cultural norms. On the other hand, we now also understand that the battle is ongoing; each generation must commit to standing up to injustice in all its forms.

I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

My Live My Love My Legacy
Coretta Scott King with Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds
Henry Holt & Co.
Publication January 17, 2017
$30 hard cover
ISBN: 9781627795982