Today we celebrate the life, accomplishments, and vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., but I think we should also celebrate his wife, Coretta Scott King. Not only did she work alongside her husband throughout his civil rights campaign, but she continued and expanded this campaign for decades after her husband’s assassination in 1968. She established the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, spoke out on behalf of gay rights, and played a leadership role in the struggle to end apartheid. She also led the successful efforts to make her husband’s birthday and national holiday.
I feel connected to Coretta Scott King. She began her college career at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where she studied music. I, too, began my college career at Antioch College, where I studied musical composition among other subjects. She transferred out of Antioch and moved to New England to study at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. I transferred out of Antioch and moved to New England to study at Franconia College in New Hampshire. While at the New England Conservatory of Music, she met a young minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., and as they say, the rest is history. While at Franconia College, I met a radical minister named William Briggs, who knew Martin Luther King, Jr., and he encouraged my efforts in the area of political activism. When I started an underground magazine called the North Country Union Reader, I printed it on Rev. Briggs’ mimeograph machine in his church basement.
Coretta Scott King has special associations for those of us who take a particular interest in children’s literature. In 1969 a group of librarians with affiliations with the American Library Association established the Coretta Scott King Award to recognize outstanding children’s books created by African Americans. They named the award after her in part because of her long-standing interest in the welfare and education of children. In 1970 they announced the first winner of this award, which went to Lillie Patterson for her biography Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace. As some of you know, every summer I teach a seminar called Children’s Literature Award Winners in which I cover the most recent winners of the major awards in children’s literature, including the Coretta Scott King Award. Through teaching this seminar, I regularly touch base with Coretta Scott King’s legacy. I never met her, but I know people who did, and they assure me that she highly valued children’s literature.
As we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., let us also remember to honor Coretta Scott King. Perhaps one way to do this is to read a book that has won the Coretta Scott King Award. Here is a link to a list of past winners of this award: http://www.ala.org/emiert/coretta-scott-king-book-awards-all-recipients-1970-present.
Award-Winning Lil — Lil Brannon and our former colleague Tony Scott recently learned that they received the 2014 Braddock Award for their article titled “Democracy, Struggle, and the Praxis of Assessment,” which appeared in the December 2013 issue of College Composition and Communication. The award was started in l975 and is given to the best essay published during the preceding year in College Composition and Communication, which is widely regarded as the top journal in rhetoric and composition. Please join me in congratulating Lil (and Tony) for winning this prestigious award.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines— Here are some dates to keep in mind:
January 24 — The English Graduate Association Conference will take place on January 24 from from 8:30 to 5:30 at Center City. Here is a link to more information about the conference: https://english.uncc.edu/node/141
Quirky Quiz Question — Martin Luther King was a giant in the civil rights movement, but Charlotte also has its giants associated with the civil rights movement. What is the name of the recently deceased Charlotte lawyer who played a central role in desegregating the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools through his litigation of the case known as Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education?
Last Week’s Quirky Quiz Question — Last week I asked, “What is the name of the famous Chicago poet who retired to the mountains of North Carolina and lived there for many years?” The answer is Carl Sandburg.