King was born April 27, 1927 in Perry County, Alabama. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music at Antioch College in 1951. During her time at Antioch, she became active in the Civil Rights Movement, joining the college’s chapter of the NAACP and the Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committee.
After graduation, she won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music where she earned a Bachelor of Music degree in 1954. King married Martin Luther King on June 18, 1953 and in their early years she was as well known as a singer as she was a civil rights activist. King played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement, taking an active part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and working hard to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1954.
In her later life, King broadened her focus to include women’s rights, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights, opposition to apartheid, capital punishment, and the war in Iraq. King was the recipient of many honors, including honorary degrees from Princeton University, Duke University and Bates College.
In 1970, the American Library Association began awarding the Coretta Scott King medal to outstanding African American writers and illustrators of children’s literature and in 2007 the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy was opened in Atlanta, Georgia.