Born – April 1927
Died – 30th January 2006
Father – Obadiah Scott (1899 – 1998)
Mother – Bernice McMurry Scott (1904 – 1996)
Spouse – m. 1953 – Martin Luther King (1927 – 2006)
Children – Yolanda (1955 – 2007), Martin (b. 1957), Dexter (b. 1961), Bernice (b. 1963)
Coretta Scott King was born to Obadiah Scott and Bernice McMurry Scott in Heiberger, Alabama. She was the couple’s third child, her two elder sisters Edythe and Eunice had been born earlier. Eunice died at a young age.
As money was short during the Great Depression Coretta helped pick cotton on the family’s farm.
Coretta’s brother Obadiah Leonard was born.
Coretta began her education at a very small local elementary school.
Due to the policy of racial segregation, Coretta attended the Lincoln Normal School, a black only high school. The school was 14km (9 mile) away and meant a lengthy bus journey each day.
Coretta excelled at music – she played piano and trumpet and sang soprano in the school choir.
Coretta’s sister, Edythe, became the first black student to attend the interracial Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Coretta Scott graduated with the highest grades for her year (valedictorian).
Coretta followed her sister and attended Antioch College where she gained a BA in music and education.
Coretta Scott believed in the activities of the Civil Rights Movement and joined the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She was also a member of Antioch College’s Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees.
Scott won a scholarship to study at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
1951 (13th September)
Martin Luther King began studying Theology at graduate level at Boston University. He hoped to find a suitable girl to marry.
Coretta agreed to meet Martin Luther King after a mutual friend thought they would be a good match. Afterwards the two met regularly.
King took Coretta to meet his parents.
1953 (14th February)
The engagement of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott was officially announced.
1953 (18th June)
Martin Luther King Jr married Coretta Scott. Martin Luther King Sr officiated at the ceremony.
1954 (17th May)
Chief Justice, Earl Warren, speaking on the case of Brown v Board of Education, stated that segregated schools were unequal and against the 14th Amendment.
Coretta Scott King gained her degree in voice and piano from the New England Conservatory. However, she decided not to pursue a music career but rather to devote herself to being a good wife and mother and playing a part in the civil rights movement.
1954 (31st October)
Martin Luther King was made pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
1955 (6th March)
Coretta first sang at King’s Baptist Church where she became a member of the choir and also taught in the Sunday school. In addition she was part of the Baptist Training Union and the Missionary Society.
1955 (5th June)
King gained his Ph.D in theology from Boston University.
1955 (26th August)
King became a member of the executive committee of the Montgomery National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).
1955 (17th November)
A daughter, Yolanda Denise, was born to Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King.
1955 (1st December)
Rosa Parks, secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. She was arrested.
1955 (2nd December)
E D Nixon, president of the Montgomery NAACP decided to use Parks’ arrest as a test case to challenge segregation on the buses. Martin Luther King was chosen to lead the boycott. Despite his reluctance to take up the challenge, King was persuaded to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was agreed that all blacks would boycott the buses from Monday 5th December.
1955 (5th December)
After a mass meeting at Martin Luther King’s church it was decided that the boycott would go ahead. Black taxi drivers carried black passengers for the price of a bus ticket while others shared cars.
1955 (5th December)
Rosa Parks was found guilty of failing to obey the bus driver’s request and fined $14.
1955 (7th December)
J Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began trying to find ‘derogatory information’ to use to discredit King.
1955 (8th December)
Montgomery officials issued an order that any taxi drivers charging less than 45 cents would be fined.
There were numerous threats made against Martin Luther King.
1956 (26th January)
King was arrested and put in jail for leading the continuing boycott of the city buses.
1956 (30th January)
Coretta and her daughter Yolanda were at home when their house was firebombed in retaliation for King’s part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Although the front of the house was damaged they were unhurt.
1956 (5th June)
The case of Browder v Gayle, which challenged the bus segregation laws, decided that bus segregation was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. The Montgomery city council immediately appealed the decision.
1956 (13th November)
The appeal against the decision in Browder v Gayle was held. The city lost and the original decision was upheld.
Because of his role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King was a well known figure and thought of as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
1957 (10th January)
Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, Joseph Lowery and Fred Shuttlesworth founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The aim of the group was to organise peaceful protest against segregation and in favour of civil rights reform.
1957 (14th February)
King was made President of the SCLC.
1957 (9th September)
President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act 1957 into law. The Act made it illegal for anyone to be prevented from voting. It was intended to outlaw the Jim Crow Laws that allowed state and local laws to impose discriminatory sanctions on black Americans but in practice it had little effect.
1957 (23rd October)
A son, Martin Luther III, was born to Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King.
Scott King was one of the founders of The committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (Peace Action).
1958 (25th April)
Coretta took part in a concert held at Peter High School in Birmingham, Alabama. She told the story of the Bus Boycott through her music hoping to further the cause of Civil Rights in America.
1958 (23rd June)
Prominent civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, met with President Dwight Eisenhower to discuss the problems facing black Americans.
1958 (17th September)
King’s book ‘Stride Toward Freedom’ which tells the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, was published.
1958 (20th September)
While signing copies of his book ‘Stride Toward Freedom’ in Blumstein’s store, Harlem, Martin Luther King was stabbed in the chest by a woman brandishing a letter opener. King was hospitalised and received surgery.
King and his wife made a month long trip to India. During the visit he met the family of Gandhi.
1959 (29th November)
King announced that he was resigning as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in order to work full time in the SCLC.
1960 (20th January)
The family moved to Atlanta, Georgia where Martin Luther King became co-Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father.
1960 (19th October)
King was arrested during a restaurant sit-in and sentenced to four months in jail. He was released three days later after intervention by John Kennedy.
1960 (22nd October)
King was arrested again for driving with an incorrect license. He was sentenced to four months hard labour. His release was later secured by Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
1961 (30th January)
A son, Dexter Scott, was born to Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King.
1961 (16th December)
King was arrested while protesting peacefully in Albany, Georgia. He was released on bail and left the town.
Robert Kennedy contacted Martin Luther King to warn him that his associates, Jack O’Dell and Stanley Levison were under suspicion of being connected to Communism and that he should remove himself from them. However, King maintained his close relationship with Levison.
Coretta went to Geneva, Switzerland where she attended the Women Strike for Peace Conference.
1962 (27th July)
King returned to Albany. He was picked up by police and sentenced to 45 days in jail or a fine of $178 for his offence in December 1961. King chose jail. He was released after 3 days when his fine was paid for him.
1962 (10th August)
Having achieved very little, King decided to withdraw from the Albany Movement.
1962 (16th October)
Martin Luther King met President John Kennedy at the White House.
1963 (28th March)
A daughter, Bernice Albertine, was born to Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King.
1963 (3rd April)
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) began a campaign against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. King’s idea was to stage mass demonstrations which would lead to multiple arrests and fill the city jail. This in turn would force city leaders to negotiate with the SCLC. However, as well as making mass arrests, police used water cannon and dogs against protesters. This was televised and viewers were shocked that the police used force against all demonstrators including children. King was criticised for putting children in danger.
1963 (12th April)
Martin Luther King was arrested and jailed for his part in the Birmingham protests. While in prison he wrote his ‘Letter from Birmingham City Jail’ which defended the rights of people to protest against injustices even if it meant breaking the law.
1963 (19th April)
King was released from jail on bond.
1963 (11th June)
President Kennedy announced that segregation was legally and morally wrong and that he would be introducing new civil rights legislation.
1963 (22nd June)
King and other Civil Rights group leaders met with President John Kennedy to discuss plans for a rally to be known as the March on Washington. The leaders wanted Civil Rights legislation to ensure equality and a minimum wage for all workers.
1963 (28th August)
Around 250,000 people converged on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC at the end of the March on Washington. Martin Luther King delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech during the rally.
Coretta attended the Women Strike for Peace rally in New York.
1963 (22nd November)
President John Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas. Martin and Coretta King were deeply saddened by the event.
Having failed to find damaging evidence against King, Hoover now added him to their Counter Intelligence Program (Cointelpro). Cointelpro used resources and covert operations to discredit or bring down individuals deemed a danger to the United States.
1964 (3rd January)
Martin Luther King was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1963.
1964 (11th June)
Martin Luther King was arrested for protesting in St Augustine, Florida.
1964 (2nd July)
President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. The law stated that discrimination by race, colour, nationality, religion or sex was illegal. Martin was present at the White House for the signing of the Act.
1964 (10th December)
Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
1965 (6th August)
The Voting Rights Act made racial discrimination in voting illegal.
Coretta made a speech criticising the lack of publicity for women involved in the struggle for Civil Rights.
Coretta Scott King took part in a Women Strike for Peace protest in Washington DC.
1968 (28th March)
Martin Luther King led a march in Memphis Tennessee in support of black sanitation workers. The level of violence against the marchers shocked King.
1968 (3rd April)
Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ speech at Mason Temple in Memphis.
1968 (4th April)
At 6.01 pm Martin Luther King stood on the balcony outside room 306 of the Lorraine Motel. He was shot by James Earl Ray and fell to the ground. Despite emergency surgery he was pronounced dead at 7.05 pm.
1968 (4th April)
Coretta learned of her husband’s assassination that evening.
1968 (after 4th April)
Coretta received hundreds of calls and visits from people expressing their condolences including Jackie Kennedy, Robert and Ethel Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
1968 (6th April)
Coretta Scott King spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Of her husband she said ‘his spirit will never die.’
1968 (8th April)
Coretta and her children walked at the head of a protest march by sanitation workers in place of Martin Luther King.
1968 (9th April)
King’s funeral was attended by more than 50,000 people.
1968 (late spring)
As it became clear that Coretta was going to continue the struggle for equality, the FBI placed her under surveillance as they had her husband.
1968 (5th June)
At just after midnight, Robert Kennedy left the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel for the press room. He was taken through the hotel kitchen as it was a short cut. He was shot three times by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, a Palestinian national, and fell to the floor. Five other people were wounded.
1968 (6th June 1.44 am)
Robert Kennedy died from the injuries sustained in the shooting.
1968 (27th April)
Coretta took the place of her husband and spoke at an anti-war demonstration in Central Park.’
1968 (8th June)
James Earl Ray was arrested and charged with the assassination of Martin Luther King.
Coretta Scott King founded the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Center in Atlanta. She took an active role in the movement serving as President and CEO of the organisation.
Coretta called for women to ‘unite and form a solid block of women power to fight … racism, poverty and war.’
Coretta and her daughter Bernita travelled to Verona, Italy and then to India.
Coretta Scott King published ‘My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr’.
1969 (15th January)
A commemorative service to mark the birthday of Martin Luther King was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Coretta began campaigning to make January 15th a national holiday in America.
1969 (15th October)
Scott King was the lead speaker at the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam demonstration in Washington DC.
1973 (25th January)
Coretta Scott King attended the state funeral of former president, Lyndon B Johnson.
The name of the King Memorial Center was changed to the Martin Luther King Jr Center for Non-violent Social Change.
Working with Dr Noel Erskine, Coretta taught a class ‘The Theology of Martin Luther King Jr’ at Candler School of Theology.
1980 (29th September)
Scott King began working as a commentator for Cable News Network.
Coretta Scott King called for the Civil Rights Act to be amended to include gays and lesbians.
1983 (28th August)
Coretta had organised hundreds of human rights organisations into the Coalition of Conscience which sponsored the 20th Anniversary of the March on Washington.
1985 (29th September)
Coretta and her children – Bernice and Martin, were arrested for taking part in an anti-apartheid protest at the South African Embassy in Washington DC.
Coretta finally succeeded in making January 15th a public holiday in America. It is known as Martin Luther King Jr Day, and his achievements are recognised annually.
Scott King made a 10-day trip to South Africa. She cancelled meeting President P.W. Botha and met Allan Boesak and Winnie Mandela instead.
Coretta lobbied President Reagan to impose economic sanctions against South Africa for its continued policy of apartheid.
1989 (8th March)
Scott King gave a lecture about the Civil Rights Movement to hundreds of students at the University of San Diego.
Coretta spoke in the defence of Qubilah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, who was accused of plotting to kill black supremacist, Louis Farrakhan.
Scott King began a campaign to register at least one million African American female voters for the 1996 presidential election. She was supported by Betty Shabazz, widow of Malcolm X and Myrlie Evers, widow of Medgar Evers.
1998 (1st April)
Coretta spoke at the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago where she called on civil rights supporters to support the movement against homophobia.
2003 (28th August)
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force were invited to take part in an observance ceremony of the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Coretta’s health began to fail.
Scott King spoke at the 40th anniversary of the Selma voting Rights Movement.
Coretta was taken ill and diagnosed with a heart condition.
2005 (16th August)
Coretta suffered a stroke and heart attack which left her paralysed on the right side and unable to speak.
2005 (22nd September)
Scott King was released from hospital having regained some speech.
2006 (14th January)
Coretta attended a dinner in Atlanta honouring the memory of Martin Luther King.
2006 (26th January)
Coretta entered a rehabilitation centre in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. She received holistic therapy for her stroke and advanced-stage ovarian cancer.
2006 (30th January)
Coretta Scott King died at the Rosarito Beach rehabilitaion centre in Mexico.
2006 (7th February)
A funeral service was held at the New Birth Missionary Baptist church in Lithonia Georgia. The service was attended by many former Presidents including Jimmy Carter, George H W Bush, Bill Clinton and George W Bush. Coretta Scott King was laid to rest in a sarcophagus next to her husband.
Published May 8, 2022 @ 12:15 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2022). Coretta Scott King 1927 – 2006