Coretta Scott King and Black Femme Invisible Labor

Learn more about Coretta Scott King, whose legacy is as remarkable as that of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Alternative text for the image: "A black and white portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, posing side by side. Dr. King is on the left, dressed in a suit and tie, while Coretta Scott King is on the right, adorned with a pearl necklace and wearing a light-colored blouse. Both are looking directly at the camera with composed expressions.
A black and white portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King

By Zarina Crockett and Daniela “Dani’ Capistrano

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an opportunity to both honor MLK’s legacy and the extraordinary woman who helped make that legacy possible: Coretta Scott King.

Like many Black women and femmes throughout history, Coretta’s role in the civil rights movement has at times been diminished and outright ignored. Today and every day, join us in honoring Coretta’s enduring influence that reverberates beyond her time and beckons us to carry on the march toward justice.

Read TransLash Media founder & CEO Imara Jones’ statement about Coretta Scott King and access more resources below.

ABOUT CORETTA SCOTT KING

Team TransLash celebrates Coretta Scott King (April 27, 1927 – January 30, 2006)’s role in the civil rights movement and her continued fight for equality.

Coretta Scott King

Historians and journalists often focus on the luminaries standing in the spotlight, inadvertently casting shadows over those who are equally deserving of acclaim. One such remarkable figure is Coretta Scott King, whose life was more than just a reflection of her husband Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. For decades after MLK’s assassination in 1968, Coretta continued to serve as a light of hope, resilience, and unwavering commitment to justice and equality.

“It’s #MLKDay and I hope you’ll join me today in taking some time to honor the person whose unfinished legacy we continue to grapple with so vividly this year,’ reflects Imara Jones, highlighting the depth of Coretta’s influence and the breadth of her own contributions to the movement. Jones reminds us that ‘we often forget about the women, many unknown and unnamed, that worked alongside Dr. King amidst the civil rights movement.”

Coretta, a woman whose grace and strength redefined the civil rights movement and the role of Black femmes within it, reminds Imara of “those like Dora Edith McDonald, another unsung hero in Dr. King’s legacy.”

Upholding a Dream, Paving New Paths

From her early days in Marion, Alabama, Coretta Scott King was a symphony of strength and intellect. A talented singer and a scholar, Coretta’s life took a pivotal turn when she met MLK in Boston in the early 1950s. Coretta was more than moral support; she was a campaign manager, strategist, and integral to fundraising and addressing the public—often with her children in tow.

Coretta’s journey did not end with MLK’s death; it simply took on a new dimension. She was instrumental in the establishment of The King Center and played a critical role in making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a reality.

Honoring the Invisible Labor of Black Femmes

The narrative of Coretta’s life is one of invisible labor, a theme that resonates deeply with the experiences of Black femmes in the civil rights movement.

Invisible work—a term coined by sociologist Arlene Kaplan Daniels to describe work that goes unpaid, unacknowledged, and thus, unregulated—is compounded by anti-Blackness and misogynoir.

Additionally, Coretta was a visionary who saw life at the intersections, therefore supporting LGBTQ+ rights, because she recognized the value of Black queer and trans people and allies. Among many acts of solidarity, in 1998 Mrs. King gave the keynote at an event marking Lambda Legal’s 25th anniversary. 

As Imara Jones powerfully states, “Coretta Scott King reminds us that this day is for everyone who has been left out & left behind… She & Dr. Martin Luther King believed in the equality of us all.”

Coretta herself fought to address the erasure of Black femmes’ roles, ensuring their contributions would be recognized.

Not Just Dr. King’s Wife

In celebration of Coretta Scott King, we honor her grace and activism that continues to inspire generations of people worldwide in the fight for justice and equality.

As Imara Jones reminds us, “the Dr. King we know so much about would not have been possible without [Coretta] and others like her.”

Most importantly, Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr., wants the world to know her mother was not a prop. The couple’s youngest daughter recently shared a photo of her mother on X after Jonathan Majors compared his girlfriend, actress Meagan Good, to the civil rights leader in his first interview since being found guilty of assault and harassment.

“My mother wasn’t a prop,” King, who leads The King Center in Atlanta, wrote in the social media post. “She was a peace advocate before she met my father and was instrumental in him speaking out against the Vietnam War. Please understand…my mama was a force.” 

Coretta’s legacy is the enduring power of her voice and influence, along with the importance of recognizing the unseen efforts of those who stand, not behind, but alongside the greats in our collective history.

Black Trans Resources for MLK Day

Black Trans Femmes in the Arts: ‘Artistic Legacies’ Screening Q&A – REPLAY
‘Tone It Down’: Poetry By A Black Trans Femme
TRANSCRIPT: Translash Podcast Ep 73 ‘Black Trans Femme Artistic Legacies’
TRANSCRIPT: TransLash Podcast Episode 65, ‘Black Trans Podcasts’
Black Trans Women Tell Their Stories in Sundance Breakout ‘Kokomo City’
Q&A with B. Pagels-Minor, founder of DVRGNT Ventures, the first Black trans-led VC Fund
Black Trans And Cis Women Deserve Equal Pay.
Women’s History Month: Black Trans Women To Follow And Support
Confronting Black men’s roles in the murders of Black transgender women may be the only way to save our lives
TRANSCRIPT: TransLash Podcast Episode 64, ‘Black, Incarcerated, and Trans’
TRANSCRIPT: TransLash Podcast Episode 36, ‘A New Black Trans Civil Rights Agenda’
How Salvador da Bahia liberated this Black trans woman
TRANSCRIPT: TransLash Podcast, Episode 14 ‘Black Trans History and Futures’
#LivesAtStake: A Conversation Between Black Straight Men & Black Trans Women
Searching for Black, Queer, and Trans Community
TransLash Guide to Black History Month

Did you find this resource helpful? Consider supporting TransLash today with a tax-deductible donation. Did we miss anything? Let us know and we’ll update the guide with your suggestion, crediting you as the contributor.

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TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.

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TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.

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