The spouses of revolutionary leaders, celebrities, and famous athletes, tend to get overlooked. It’s rare that we get a vivid description of what life was like for the spouse. It’s even rarer that we get notable memoirs.
My Life, My Love, My Legacy, by the late Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and co-writer the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, gives readers a vivid description of Coretta, not so much of Mrs. King, who the majority of the world knew her as. Coretta was at the forefront of a movement during one of the most pivotal eras in American history.
Marrying King and becoming part of a movement were never part of her plans as child. The bombings, death threats, murders, and her husband’s assassination, are what made Coretta “identify with all suffering people around the world, no matter what color they were.”
Coretta explains that her first love was singing. She takes us back to her debut in church, (the center of her social life) which was covered by several local papers. Becoming a pastor’s wife was the last thing she expected.
Coretta was scholar, becoming the first Black person to major in education and minor in voice at Antioch College, as well as an activist before becoming acquainted with King. She was part of the Antioch NAACP as well the peace movement of the time.
Coretta finds ways to reveal the racial language that usually gets overlooked, then, and now. Having White classmates accept her, but not the rest of her race. “Well, you’re so different from the rest of them,” classmates would say. Not having any other Black friends, never getting to know “the rest of them.”
Coretta and King both believed in many of the same things and the book makes clear Coretta was the female version of King. She details the night of January 30, 1956 in Alabama, when their house was bombed. “We must love our white brothers, no matter what the do to us,” King said.
Long after Kings’s death in 1968, Coretta believed that non-violent warfare, was the quintessential tactic to fight for justice. “Surrendering your body to be put in chains while allowing your spirit, your soul, and your sense of right to reign free. Gandhi, Kwame Nkrumah Nelson Mandela, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Apostle Paul, and Jesus Christ Himself all surrendered their bodies to their jailers and, in many ways, large and small, forever changed the face of history through their suffering and sacrifices.”
The book makes clear Coretta’s life as a mother, wife, and activist. She writes how she continued to lead the movement after King’s death. Towards the end of her memoir, Coretta writes, “Once I found my purpose, I was ready to die to hold on to it.” And that’s exactly what she did. There is truth in finding a passion and pursing it until your casket closes. Coretta shows us how to do exactly that.
Kondwani Fidel is a writer, speaker, and spoken word poet. Fidel is the author of Raw Wounds and is a member of Ivy Bookshop. He is from, and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. All book reviewed in this column can be purchased at The Ivy Bookshop, located at 6080 Falls Rd, near Lake Ave in Mt Washington. For more information about book club discounts or upcoming author events please go to www.theivybookshop.com or call us at 410-377-2966.