When you think of power couples who live purposeful lives, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King will always come to mind. Many around the world praise the accomplishments of Dr. King Jr.; however, Mrs. King was a full partner in his work, marching with him and giving speeches while caring for their four children. After Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, she helped run the Poor People’s March on Washington, she became the first woman to preach at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Great Britain, and she was instrumental in creating the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Today we salute the King’s marriage as we reflect on how we can work with our partners to ensure the world will be a better place.
How they Met
Coretta Scott was an amazing soprano singer, and she won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. It turns out Martin Luther King, Jr., who was studying theology at Boston University, was looking for a companion. According to his autobiography, Dr. King asked a mutual friend Mary Powell to exchange their numbers. Dr. King recounted, “We met over the telephone. […] We talked awhile. […] [Coretta] agreed to see me. […] She talked about things other than music. I never will forget the first discussion we had was about the question of racial and economic injustice and the question of peace. […] After an hour, my mind was made up. I said, ‘So you can do something else besides sing? You've got a good mind also. You have everything I ever wanted in a woman. We ought to get married someday.’”
According to a 2006 New York Times article, when Dr. King proposed, Mrs. King deliberated for six months before saying yes. Mrs. King recalled, "...he was looking for a wife. I wasn't looking for a husband, but he was a wonderful human being...I still resisted his overtures, but after he persisted, I had to pray about it...I had a dream, and in that dream, I was made to feel that I should allow myself to be open and stop fighting the relationship. That's what I did, and of course the rest is history. "
Dr. King and Mrs. King were married in Alabama on June 18, 1953. The marriage ceremony took place on the lawn of the Scott's home in Marion, AL. The Reverend King, Sr., performed the service, with Mrs. Edythe Bagley, the sister of Mrs. King, as maid of honor, and the Reverend A.D. King, the brother of Martin Luther King, Jr., as the best man. Coretta had the vow to obey her husband removed from the ceremony, which was very unusual for the 1950s. According to the New York Times, “the 350 guests, elegant big-city folks from Atlanta and rural neighbors from Alabama, made it the biggest wedding, white or black, the area had ever seen.”
However, Mrs. King would soon understand that when she married Dr. King she not only married a man, she married a movement. Mrs. King recalled: "After we married, […] I came to the realization that we had been thrust into the forefront of a movement to liberate oppressed people, […] and this movement had worldwide implications. I felt blessed to have been called to be a part of such a noble and historic cause."
Later the Kings would have four children Yolanda Denise born in 1955, Martin Luther III in 1957, Dexter Scott in 1961, and Bernice Albertine in 1963. Dr. King and Mrs. King conflicted over what was to be her role in the movement. Dr. King wanted his wife to focus on raising their four children, while Mrs. King wanted to take on a more public leadership role. However, Mrs. King made sacrifices to support her husband’s vision, while keeping their children safe.
Timeless Words of Love
In an interview, Mrs. King said this about her husband, “Martin was an unusual person.... He was so alive and so much fun to be with. He had strength that he imparted to me and others that he met.” In an 1967 interview, Dr. King said this about Mrs. King, "I didn't want a wife I couldn't communicate with. I had to have a wife who would be as dedicated as I was. I wish I could say that I led her down this path, but I must say we went down it together because she was as actively involved and concerned when we met as she is now. […] I am indebted to my wife Coretta, without whose love, sacrifices, and loyalty neither life nor work would bring fulfillment. She has given me words of consolation when I needed them and a well-ordered home where Christian love is a reality." We praise the King family for their sacrifices and we are eternally grateful for their continued dedication to non-violence and equality for all.
Coretta Scott King's Wedding Look
We love Coretta Scott King's high neck, capped sleeve wedding gown, accompanied with sheer gloves and peep toe sandals. Her wedding dress was very on trend with 1950s wedding fashion. According to BridalGuide.com, “Gloves were a standard fashion of the '50s, with fingerless bridal gloves made of tulle, lace, or satin. Shorter hemlines led to shorter veils and more attention paid to the bride's shoes. The '50s introduced the sweetheart neckline, first popularized by Elizabeth Taylor in the original Father of the Bride. Many gowns were designed to be worn as strapless evening gowns after the wedding, with coordinating bolero jackets for coverage at the wedding.” If you want to recreate Mrs. King's look, we love these wedding dresses by Allure Bridals and Justin Alexander.
Photo credits: CORBIS, Getty Images, The King Family