Blogs > Cliopatria > She Was Born at Heiberger

Jan 31, 2006 6:47 pm

She Was Born at Heiberger

The family of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King announced her death this morning. Google and most of the obituaries will tell you that she was born at Marion, Alabama, the county seat of Perry County. But that wouldn't be quite correct. Coretta Scott was born at Heiberger, Alabama, a country crossroads, just up Route #5 from Marion. Nobody much lives at Heiberger any more. Here's a shot of the"Heiberger Mall." (Scroll down) Marion, at least, now is where Martin Luther King Parkway crosses Washington Street.

Nobody much lived at Heiberger when Coretta Scott was born there in 1927, either. Her parents, Obie Leonard and Bernice McMurray Scott, were independent people. They saw to it that their daughters, Edyth and Coretta, went to school at Lincoln Institute in Marion. It was a private missionary school, the only high school for African American students in Perry County. Hearing Bayard Rustin speak at Lincoln Institute was one of Coretta's memories from Lincoln Institute. That would have been in the mid-1940s, shortly after the Scott family home at Heiberger burned to the ground. Coretta would follow Edyth to Antioch College in Ohio. There, she was active in the Progressive Party's presidential campaign of 1948. Without finishing her degree at Antioch, Mrs. King went to Boston to study at its Conservatory of Music. There, she met young Martin Luther King, who was working on his doctorate at Boston University. They would go back to Heiberger to be married in the yard of her family's home, but they spent the first night of their marriage at the black funeral home at Marion. A decade later, Marion would be the scene of violent racial clashes during the civil rights movement.

So, Coretta Scott King was born in a backwater of western Alabama. She married into a family that was a generation removed from middle Georgia backwaters. They didn't let her forget it, either. So long as she was Martin Luther King's wife, she remained in the background, a wife and mother. Only with his death could she become the widow. She made as much of it as she could.

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