Last week, America paused to honor the life and contributions of an American civil rights icon, Mrs. Coretta Scott King.
Many people know Mrs. King as the wife of one of America’s greatest citizens, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King’s enduring legacy that are rightfully celebrated across our great land and throughout the world; however, Dr. King’s towering accomplishments should not obscure the fact that Mrs. King established her own place in American history.
The events of the past few weeks have reminded me of the time, some 20 years ago, when Mrs. King came to see me when I was governor of Tennessee. We were working to establish a holiday in honor of her late husband. It was harder work than it should have been, and I am reminded of how far we have come, even since the 1980s.
Mrs. Knight was the founding president of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change which continues to promote the noble philosophies of Dr. King. In addition to promoting the memory of her husband and his great work. Mrs. King created her own legacy as she traveled throughout America and across the globe to champion racial equality, women’s rights, religious freedom, health care and education.
Like many of us of a certain age, Mrs. King was born in an America very different from the one we know today. Little black boys and girls could not go to school with little white boys and girls. Plessy vs. Ferguson had not yet been overruled, so “separate but equal” was the law of the land. Lynchings were common, and in many places the Ku Klux Klan terrorized black communities. As we look back on the tremendous progress we’ve made since then, we remember those who helped America turn away from injustice and inequality and strive toward its founding principal that “all men are created equal.”
As a wife, a mother, and a leader of the civil rights movement, Coretta Scott King showed strength and dignity. With quiet determination, she preserved her husband’s legacy and created her own place in the history of our nation’s struggle for equal opportunity.