Here’s the million dollar question posed in a survey: If you had the chance to spend a day with anybody—either dead or alive—who would it be and why?
Congratulations to anyone who can immediately rattle off a name(s). For me, the real question becomes whose feet can I sit and listen intentionally as this person expounds on their life, their countless and numerous honors, their dedication, their “popular or unpopular decisions,” their internal struggles, their devotion and their dreams? I envision this person would be like a teacher educating a child about the complexities of life, the enormity of their role, their depth of consciousness and their immense joy for doing what they loved.
With February being Black History Month, I immediately thought about vast number of prospects formulating my interest in the Civil Rights Movement, particularly the roles of women. As the saying goes, “Behind every man, there’s a great woman.” In this case, there were many women that were influential in the Civil Rights Movement, from organizing the marches, to planning the sit-ins and actually participating in the marches. Some of these facts are not always mentioned. But one lady’s contribution undeniably changed the trajectory of the Civil Rights Movement by insisting and also speaking out for justice and basic Civil Rights, we take for granted today. This person is Coretta Scott King.
The question that loomed in my mind: As loving as she was, there had to be some internal discord in her mind/spirit, knowing that Martin Luther King willing would “become the sacrificial lamb” meaning at any time, they both knew he could die at any time. And privately, at what point did she give her blessing? How many woman could even consider such a prospect?
When Coretta Scott met Martin Luther King, they had one thing in common: their passion for civil equality and activism. She was already a member of N.A.A.C.P and other social causes. Marrying a minister, she knew that her life would forever change. And she readily accepted and threw herself into the life of being a Preacher—responsibilities and all.
From what I read, Coretta partnered with her husband, to fulfill his demanding duties as a preacher. She already knew she would have to share her husband. Her understanding of his demanding scheduled and his calling to ministry would require her immense commitment and understanding. Yet, she still stood strong with her husband in his duties and the higher calling to civil rights.
I’m convinced that Coretta Scott King must have known the full range of the Bible and its decrees just like her husband before saying “I do.” In Genesis 2:24, it states: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Coretta Scott King had to know, that this meant, one mindset, one for the cause, one vision and one leader. Willingly and lovingly, I believe that she did not see herself as subservient—in a negative way or connotation. No, I believe when Martin Luther King explained the Civil Rights purpose and its greater context to her, I could only imagine that she’d have to wrestle with such inner apprehensions? When does any woman ever get used to the following:
- Hearing the phone ring in the middle of the night and hearing “Your husband’s dead.”
- Your husband is locked up—again
- Your husband is being followed and possibly taped by the FBI?
- The KKK and other agitators have targeted your husband.
- Your husband is in jail. Who’s to say he’ll come out alive?
- You’re going to be widow
- Your children are going to be fatherless?
- Expect your house to be bombed.
- Your husband will not get a fair trial
- Warning: You will probably have to carry on the fight when your husband dies
- And lastly, “Prepare to be a single mother.”
Given these scenarios, at what point did Coretta Scott King give her blessing? ” is the question on most people’s mind. And are you really ok with knowing your spouse life could end any minute in a violent demise? Would you readily put your life and your children’s life in danger for the cause/dream? Remember, Coretta Scott King was home with her family, when someone threw a bomb into their home? Luckily, she and her children were unharmed. And what man or woman wouldn’t be have the following questions given the serious of the situation?
- Are you serious?
- This is your dream, not mine.
- I didn’t sign up this.
- Do you not realize you’re a wife/mother/husband/father?
Call it selfish, but these questions are real in any woman or man’s mind, thoughts and sometimes actions. What about the dedicated men in law enforcement or those who dedicate their lives to the Army/Navy? What does it feel like to these spouses who kiss their spouses good-bye not knowing if they’ll ever see them again? Hats off to women, like Coretta Scott King, Winnie Mandela, Jackie Kennedy and Merlie Evans-Williams and Betty Shabazz. These women all shared one thing in common: Men who gave their lives to the American people.
I feel my heart get full when Coretta Scott King locked arms with her husband and walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge not knowing if she would return. What wife/mother would put her own life at risk? I shake my head knowing this woman had to have some kind of faith and resolve.
I see a woman who intrinsically understood the greater sense of self sacrifice, the greater good, sacrificing personally for the advancement of others. Surely, I knew that Mrs. Coretta Scott King knew, modeled and made her decisions accordingly as she wholeheartedly endorsed the Bible passage in John 3:16: “ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
There’s no question in my mind that Mrs. Coretta Scott King’s decisions, actions, dedication and triumphs were ever in vain. I believe as a wife/mother, activist, that her destiny was predestined, which is why she may have accepted Martin’s devotion. Their combined mission was unity and if they had to die for it, then so be it. Deep!