Interview with Coretta Scott King
QUESTION 26
INTERVIEWER:

I'M GOING TO JUMP YOU AHEAD A LITTLE BIT HERE, TO 1960, AND I'M GOING TO ASK YOU FOR JUST A—A SERIES OF LITTLE SHORT STORIES OF HOW YOU REMEMBER THINGS. I'M THINKING ABOUT THE TIME THAT DR. KING IS JAILED FOR PARTICIPATING WITH THE STUDENTS IN A SIT-IN IN THE DEPARTMENT STORE IN ATLANTA. IN RICH'S DEPARTMENT STORE. AND I—COULD YOU JUST GIVE US A LITTLE DESCRIPTION OF YOUR FEARS ABOUT HIS SAFETY AT THAT TIME?

Coretta Scott King:

Well, I was expecting my third child, which, who was, who's Dexter, who is now twenty-four, almost twenty-five. And I guess when you're pregnant you feel more insecure with your husband being away. And being in jail for any length of time is always a problem. Martin, Martin had decided earlier on in Montgomery that he would not bail himself out of jail, whenever he went. He would stay there and, as a part of the protest, or a part of the nonviolent strategy, to stay in jail until something had changed, in terms of granting part of what, what was being asked, or what have you. In the early days, everybody was arrested and got out of jail, but, but what, what, what I think happened, when we came to Atlanta and was arrested at Rich's, is that he had already decided he would not accept bail unless something happened in the situation that had improved it. And so when he—I knew he was going to stay in jail then, and I was expecting. It just created a lot more of a hardship ‘cause I wanted to visit him, because I know, he really didn't like to go to jail. He used to say, anyone who has sense does not like to go to jail, all the time. He said, but I go to jail because I must. And, and he felt it was necessary for someone to do it. And if that was his role and the price he had to pay to free some people, he would be willing to do that. So as I was expecting, and having to go back and forth to jail, you know, it was very tiring and wearying, but I expected Martin to come out of jail when everybody else came out, once there was a settlement reached. And I found out, when the rest of them left, they let them out, and there was some settlement made between the department store and the business community, and all, and, and the student and the leadership of the movement. They kept Martin, and we didn't understand why, and it took a while for me to find out, why Martin couldn't come out of jail. And being pregnant as I was, I was very immediately depressed, because I had expected to see him, and when they said he had to be taken to DeKalb County—because this was Fulton County, in Atlanta, where he was—then I didn't understand what was going to happen. And then finally I found out it was about a traffic charge, that had, that had been made earlier. And that the judge had discretionary powers, even, and that really disturbed me. But we went to court and we had good lawyers, in DeKalb County, and we thought that he was going to have to—he would come out soon. But the judge, after the hearing, said, "I, I find the defendant guilty, and sentence him to six months hard labor in the Reedsville State Penitentiary." And I wasn't expecting it. And it was just like a, you know, almost like a bombshell. And the students were very upset, and my sister-in-law was upset and we were all feeling so tense that—