Wednesday, March 10, 1999

Coretta King recalls impact of non-violence

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Coretta Scott King speaks at Aronoff Center Tuesday night.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        Coretta Scott King recalled a pivotal event in the civil rights movement on Tuesday night at the Aronoff Center and said its lessons remain vital today.

        Mrs. King, widow of slain civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., told how her husband calmed an angry group of black people after a bomb had exploded on the front porch of their Montgomery, Ala., parsonage.

        It was 1956. The boycott of city buses, sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks on Dec. 1, 1955, was in full stride. Mrs. King was at home. Her daughter, Yolanda, slept in a back room of the home. The Rev. Dr. King was at a regular Monday night mass meeting.

        He returned home when he heard of the blast. Dozens of African-Americans, many of them armed, had come to the home.

        “Martin assured them that we were unhurt,” Mrs. King said during her hourlong lecture, the third of five in the Unique Lives & Experiences women's lecture series. “He said, "I want you to go home and put down your weapons. We must meet violence with non-violence. We must love our white brothers even when they don't love us.'

        “I believe very firmly that if the people of Montgomery had resorted to violence, we would have had a race riot that would have ended the whole cause. Martin set the tone that night.”

        Mrs. King, who was greeted with a standing ovation from the audience of about 2,800, 400 short of capacity, also told of her personal struggles for racial equality.

        She watched her father, a successful farmer and lumber dealer, battle racism in rural Alabama in the 1940s. The family home and his lumber mill were both torched, Mrs. King said, by arsonists, whites who did not want to see black men succeed.

        But her father, Mrs. King said, didn't lose his loving, forgiving spirit. He did not turn bitter. Each time, he returned to work and worked harder.

        That example stuck with Mrs. King, through her undergraduate work at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, her studies at the New England Conservatory of Music and as wife to the leader of the modern civil rights movement.

        She encouraged women to participate in public life, saying that women's inherent nurturing skills are needed to solve peace, justice and poverty issues that still rage.


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