Mrs. Coretta Scott King, who will deliver the main address on February 11 at the 20th annual MIT celebration of the life and legacy of her late husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has been a central figure in the struggle for social and economic justice for more than 40 years.
She will speak in Kresge Auditorium shortly after noon, following the traditional silent march to Kresge from Lobby 7, where activities honoring Dr. King will begin at 9:30 a.m. A full schedule of activities will be printed in the February 9 issue of Tech Talk.
Mrs. King, 66, is the founding president and chief executive officer of The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. The center, established June 26, 1968, is a living memorial to Dr. King, preserving the legacy of what the human rights movement accomplished under his leadership. Dr. King was assassinated April 4, 1968.
Coretta Scott, who was born in Marion, AL, and Martin Luther King Jr., who was a native of Atlanta, met in Boston where she was studying as a concert singer at the New England Conservatory of Music and he was pursuing a doctorate in theology at Boston University. They were married on June 18, 1953. The following year she received the Mus.B. degree in voice. She also holds the BA in music and education from Antioch College. During the next decade they had four children.
Mrs. King has shared and carried her husband's advocacy of peace and justice through nonviolent action across the nation and throughout the world. In 1957 she and Dr. King journeyed to Ghana to mark that country's independence and in 1964 they went to Oslo, Norway, where Dr. King was given the Nobel Peace Prize. She has traveled to India three times and has led goodwill missions to a number of Latin American and African nations. She has addressed two of history's most massive peace rallies in New York and Bonn, Germany. Mrs. King also served as a Women's Strike for Peace delegate to the 17-nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva in 1962. She was the first woman to deliver the Class Day address at Harvard and the first woman to preach at a statutory service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
Since the assassination of Dr. King, her life's work has been dedicated to building the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. Last year more than two million people visited the center, which includes Dr. King's tomb, his birth home, the Freedom Hall Complex and the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
After years of planning and lobbying under Mrs. King's leadership, the 23-acre neighborhood surrounding these historic sites was declared a national historic site, a division of the National Park Service, in 1980.
The King Center has been a pivotal force in building massive interracial coalitions. In 1974, the center formed a coalition of religious, labor, business, civil rights and women's rights organizations to educate and lobby for full employment and economic opportunity for all. Along with Murray Finley, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Textile Workers Union, Mrs. King serves as co-chairperson of the Full Employment Action Council, representing more than 100 national organizations dedicated to a national policy to provide a job at a decent wage for every person willing and able to work.
Mrs. King led the 20th anniversary march on Washington in 1983, bringing together more than 800 human rights organizations to form the Coalition of Conscience. More than 500,000 people were involved in the march, considered to be the largest nonviolent demonstration in the capital's history.
In 1984 Mrs. King was elected to chair the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission which was established by Congress to formalize plans for the first legal holiday in honor of Dr. King in 1986.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 22).