As we remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 92nd anniversary of his birth this weekend, we are also approaching the first annivesary of the death of his widow, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, who died on January 30, 2006.
In a mystery novel called Plain Brown Wrapper, there is a scene where a very dignified, stylish older woman is dressed in a sharp suit, gloves and hat and her look is labeled "Coretta Couture." I think that was a very apt description because wearing a fabulous hat and dress was, more often than not, far beyond mere fashion for American black women of Mrs. King's generation. Looking good was often the best revenge in a world that often negated the beauty and femininity of black women. In fact, slave women, who often did the same type of work men did, would often decorate their headwraps with flowers. In later years, black women were still mostly relegated to decidedly unfeminine tasks so, come Sunday, Praise the Lord, it was time to look good!
Imagine what it felt like, especially for the average working woman, to see the beautiful and graceful Coretta Scott King in these times. She was beautiful but relatable. Stylish, but not overdone. The perfect portrait of dignity and grace in every situation.
Dr. and Mrs. King in 1964 celebrating his Nobel Peace Prize.
Robert and Ethel Kennedy paying their respects to Mrs. King.
Clockwise from top: Mrs. King playing with Berniece in November 1964 after services at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Mrs. King at an anti-war rally in May 1970. The Two Mrs. Kings visiting Dr. King at Harlem Hospital in 1958 after he was stabbed by a crazed woman. Mrs. King in 1968. All photos in this post via Corbis.