Kent State’s black community remembers Coretta Scott King

Bryan Wroten

The news of Coretta Scott King’s death yesterday came as a surprise to members of the black community at Kent State.

King, widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., suffered a stroke in August 2005. She passed away at a holistic medicine clinic in Mexico, The Associated Press reported. She was 78.

“We’re very saddened by her passing,” said Diedre Badejo, chair of the department of Pan-African Studies. “But more importantly, we’re celebrating a life well lived.”

King made very important contributions not only to the Civil Rights Movement but to the American political culture, Badejo said. She was a supporter of her husband as well as a principled woman in her own right.

George Garrison, professor of Pan-African studies, called King a remarkable woman, and said there was much to her life after the assassination of her husband in 1968. He praised her creation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, an institution dedicated to the teachings and legacy of her husband’s philosophy of nonviolence.

He said she worked with Myrlie Evers and Betty Shabazz, the widows of Medgar Evers and Malcolm X, to continue the work of their husbands. Garrison said they became symbols of the movement.

Along with civil rights, Garrison said King advocated the rights of the poor and fought for their economic opportunities. He said her success came from making the nation realize poverty is a multiracial problem.

“Being a female, she is somebody who is inspirational to me,” said Sasha Parker, Black United Students political officer and grievance chair.

She said many civil rights leaders had wives who weren’t actively involved in the movement. Parker said King was more than just a wife.

Latoya Peterson, freshman political science major, agreed with Parker.

“It’s not like she stopped when he stopped,” she said. “It takes a lot not to fall in the shadow of someone when the shadow is big.”

One of her biggest accomplishments was raising her four children after the assassination of her husband, Badejo said. It was very important to them that families would have access to America’s blessings, she said.

“Future generations can look on her and see someone who not only had her own sense of self, but also her commitment to humanity and commitment to civil rights and human freedom,” Badejo said. “She was dedicated to the uplifting and evolution of human rights. The dignity of human beings is something she was committed to till her passing.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].