SACRAMENTO – When civil rights legend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lost his life to an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968, his wife, Coretta Scott-King, was instantly a single mother raising four young children. In the 1960s, Mrs. King’s struggles were not only highlighted because she was Black, though it also is noted, other challenges were centered around her being a woman.
Martin Luther King III, the eldest of Dr. and Mrs. King’s children, watched as his mother singlehandedly carried on her departed husband’s legacy, while handling the task of being a caring matriarch.
King III said it was an assignment his mother had exercised even before Dr. King’s death.
“You know we all feel like our mothers are super humans because of what they do,” King III told The OBSERVER while he was visiting Sacramento earlier this week.
“We were raised primarily by her as a single parent; even during the times when dad was alive,” said the oldest King son.
He added that his mother had to handle many tasks in addition to raising the children — work with a coalition of leaders to get a holiday named after Dr. King; help create an organization called the Martin Luther King Center For Non-violence and Social Change; and, work with any number of organizations around the world creating social change.
“She also had to matriculate and navigate through historically male-run organizations,” King III stated.
While here in Sacramento King III was the guest speaker for a local group called “Indivizible” at the Guild Theater.
His appearance was a standing-room only affair of more than 200 people. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson led a stimulating discussion with the perceptive leader in a talk-show format.
Mayor Johnson and King III discussed a number of issues, including whether King III felt that African Americans had achieved his father’s dream.
To that, King III said, “Absolutely not.”
“Dad and mom dedicated their lives to eradicating the triple evils … poverty, racism and militarism/violence,” King III said.
He added that while some progress has been made in the 50 years since the 1963 March on Washington, “we still have a ways to go.”
King III followed his parents into leadership and service to others. In his native Atlanta, Georgia, he has worked in county government and recently served at the helm of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization founded by his father.
King III is currently the president of the King Center in Atlanta.
In his interview with The OBSERVER, King III talked candidly about a few of his father’s accomplishments.
In the same regard, he shed some light on the courage of Black women, such as his mother and civil rights icon Dorothy Height.
“In the the ’60s, this nation was a different nation in terms of mistreatment of women,” King III said.
“Women like my mother and Ms. Height of the National Council of Negro Women were just phenomenal.”
“African American women are really the strength of our community,” he continued.
“No matter how well we may do, if it were not for African American mothers who instilled values in us, none of us would be able to do what we do today. I believe my mom belongs in that category,” he warmly stated.
The local organization “Indivizible” was started by Mayor Johnson in 2011. The group’s stated mission is to see that Sacramento’s African American community become one of the most powerful economic and political communities in the country.
The organization has set an agenda that includes 1) eliminating the educational achievement gap by ensuring that all Black children are attending high performing schools; 2) increasing the income and wealth of the local African American community; and 3) ensuring Blacks have equal and fair representation in the democratic process.