Coretta Scott King has long been known as the powerful force behind one of the nation’s greatest civil rights icons, her husband Martin Luther King Jr. But she has also cemented herself as a legendary activist in her own right.
“What we know of my father really came from her resilience, her determination, her faith, her courage,” Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin and Coretta, told ABC News‘ Robin Roberts in an interview that aired Monday on Good Morning America.
“She used to say that this family is called. We grew up hearing that a lot,” she added, calling her mother the “architect of this King legacy.”
Scott King died of ovarian cancer in 2006 — nearly four decades after King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. Now, Scott King’s experiences and legacy are chronicled in a posthumous memoir called My Life, My Love, My Legacy — the book is based on hours of never-before-published interviews.
“I believe Martin was chosen. I believe I was chosen. And I say to the kids, ‘this family was chosen as well,’ ” Scott King said in the memoir penned by journalist Barbara Reynolds.
Scott King stood alongside her husband during the civil rights movement, but suggested in one of the unheard interviews that she would not live in his shadow.
“I said, ‘Well you know, I love being your wife and the mother of your children. But if that was all that I did, I would go crazy,’ ” she said when recalling a conversation with a friend.
And her strides were not lost on King Jr. who at one point declared: “A wife can either make or break a husband. My wife was always stronger than I was through the struggle. In the darkest moments, she always brought a light of hope.”
The couple’s daughter, Bernice, recalled a 1956 incident in which their home was bombed while King Jr. was away.
“Mother was the one who first experienced the manifestation of a threat,” she said. “She had to first come to a resolve that ‘I’m willing to risk the loss of my own life before even him.’ “
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Bernice said she hopes that those who read her mother’s memoir will come to know that “Martin didn’t make Coretta Scott King. When they met she was prepared.”
“I honestly believe, in a different kind of way, she did greater things. Probably because she lived longer,” Bernice told Roberts of her mother. “Also because she had the insight to see who he really was, and articulate it in a way that an entire world could embrace regardless of your background.”