How Coretta Scott King Leveraged MLK’s Legacy to Fight for Gay Rights


“I once told Martin that although I loved being his wife and a mother, if that was all I did I would have gone crazy. I felt a calling on my life from an early age. I knew I had something to contribute to the world.” Coretta Scott King, quietly known as the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement, is most famous for being her husband’s wife. She founded the Martin Luther King Jr Center for Nonviolent Social Change, a cornerstone of her and her husband’s lasting legacy. For Scott King, a key part of that legacy was carrying King’s name into the fight for LGBT equality. In 1983, on the 20th anniversary of her husband’s March on Washington, Scott King pledged her support for the Gay and Civil Rights Act that was then before Congress. When questioned about this turn in her activism, Scott King reminded naysayers that many gays and lesbians had given their all to the civil rights movement (including perhaps most famously Bayard Rustin, an openly gay black man and lead organizer of the 1963 March on Washington).

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