Posthumous memoir reveals: I am also Coretta

"There is a Mrs. King. There is also Coretta. How one became detached from the other remains a mystery to me. I'm proud to have been a wife, a single parent and a leader. But I am more than a label. I am also Coretta," writes Coretta Scott King in her memoir. - submitted photo

Reports recently surfaced of a 30-year-old letter written by Coretta Scott King, the wife of late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. In 1986, King voiced opposition to then-U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions' nomination to the federal bench in a nine-page letter that was made public as congressional hearings continue for the Alabama senator, who was nominated to serve as attorney general under President-elect Donald Trump.

"Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts," King wrote in the letter to then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond. Sessions was serving as a federal prosecutor in Alabama's southern district in 1986 when he was nominated for a federal judgeship.

"Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly Black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship."

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It is not clear why Thurman never put the letter into the Congressional record, but it is evident that King was relentless in her vigilance to carry on the civil rights struggle as partner to Martin and her continuing activism for many causes after his death.

In “My Life, My Love, My Legacy" (Henry Holt; $30), King shares her life story as told over a period of 25 years to Dr. Barbara Reynolds.

Born in 1927 in the Deep South, she became politically and socially active and committed to the peace movement while in college. As a graduate student at the New England Conservatory of Music, determined to pursue her own career as a concert singer, she married Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister insistent that his wife stay home with the children. After her husband's assassination in 1968, King was recast as a widow and single mother of four. King, devoted to the shared Christian beliefs as well as shared racial and economic justice goals of her husband, developed The King Center, lobbied for 15 years for the U.S. national holiday in honor of her husband, championed for women's, workers’ and gay rights and was a powerful international voice for nonviolence, freedom and human dignity.

"In my first book, ‘My Life with Martin Luther King. Jr,’ my focus was on my husband, a man who paid the ultimate price for his commitment to creating a better world,” King reveals. “At that time, I felt very strongly that the book had to be about Martin. Now I am turning the page ... There is a Mrs. King. There is also Coretta. How one became detached from the other remains a mystery to me. I'm proud to have been a wife, a single parent and a leader. But I am more than a label. I am also Coretta. In reading this memoir, I hope you somehow see Coretta."

Coretta Scott King died in 2006 at the age of 78.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Bobbi Booker at (215) 893-5749 or bbooker@phillytrib.com

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