Interview with Coretta Scott King

So, Mrs. King, I would like to have you give us a sense of the anguish that your husband went through. And then, as I said, if you could also wrap up by telling us about the phone call from Whitney Young.


Martin agonized really over the decision of whether he should come out sooner than he did. I mean over those several years, I remember the, right after the Nobel Peace Prize, ah, in 1964 in December and in the early part of '65 he made a statement, a fairly strong statement. And of course the press, ah, noticed it and, ah, sort of attacked him about the statement. And, ah, he, ah, he began to, I guess kind of weigh his, his words. But at that time, he, ah, conferred with his Board and because he said that it would affect very directly SCLC and the work that he was doing, ah, in terms of the support that he was getting. Because people who were with me on civil rights will not be with me on this issue, and we have to count those costs. And all I want you to do is to allow me to make the statement as an individual, not on behalf of the organization. And, ah, now of course, he had the right to do that, ah, on his own but there was no way you could, the press would make that distinction or the people would make that distinction. Therefore he had to prepare them for what, ah, were, were real consequences. And, he, I think, always understood that. But it was very difficult for him because he really felt very strongly from the very beginning on this whole issue of war and, ah, the Vietnam war especially because he had studied the, ah, conflict, ah, studied back in the, ah, '40s and he was able to, ah, to see the development of, of the United States getting more involved and, and how all that happened and why, you know, we didn't have to get that involved. And then he could see the in- injustice of it all and how it was affecting, ah, the country domestically and how the people who were the poorest people in this country were more directly affected by it. Ah, and I remember when he, ah, ah, continued to, ah, you know, to feel that, you know, as a person of conscience he, he needed to come forth and make the statement. And it was like, you know, I, whatever the risk is, you know, I must take it now, ah, because it's the right thing to do. And, he finally, of course did take the position, as I said, and, ah, he, ah, was, ah, attacked by many of his colleagues. And I remember one day when he was home, ah, he had been traveling for a few days and he happened to be home that day. And in the morning of that day he started, ah, talking about the fact that he was very disappointed in Whitney Young's comments and, ah, Whitney had made some very negative comments about his statement and he said, "I can understand the older leaders like Roy Wilkins and others but I don't understand Whitney. He's a younger man." And, ah, you know, he was so, seemed to be so hurt. So I said to him, "Well, Martin, if you feel that way, why don't you pick up the telephone and call Whitney. Because, ah, whenever, whenever, ah, ah, you feel like that I think it's the right thing to do and you normally would do this. Why don't you just go ahead and do it?". So he said, "I believe I will." And he picked up the phone and he called Whitney Young and, ah, they talked for at least an hour. And I heard him rehearsing the history of the--