Coretta Scott King (1927-2006), most widely known as the wife and widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., carried on his vision of nonviolent protest to effect social change after his death in 1968. She founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change that year and later opposed apartheid in South Africa and participated in other human rights struggles.

Coretta Scott was born April 27, 1927, in Heiberger, Perry County, to Obediah and Bernice McMurray Scott, between siblings Edythe and Obediah Leonard. The Scotts owned their cotton farm but struggled as most Alabamians did during the Great Depression. The Scotts placed a great deal of emphasis on education, and the children walked five miles to the one-room Crossroads School for their elementary education. The nearest African American high school, Lincoln, was nine miles away in Marion. Being too far to walk and not wanting her children to board in Marion during the week, Coretta’s mother hired a bus and drove all the black students in the community to school daily. Coretta excelled in music, playing both the trumpet and piano, singing in the chorus, and participating in school musicals. She graduated as class valedictorian in 1945.

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Encyclopedia of Alabama

Photos courtesy of: Alamy