Interview with Coretta Scott King

OK, Mrs. King can you tell me again about February '65 when you met Malcolm X in Selma.


Yes, I was in Selma to visit my husband who was in jail in connection with the, ah, voting rights campaign in Selma. Because he had been in jail for a day or so and, ah, because the campaign had been in progress, I was little bit weary because naturally I was so involved in it, ah, even though I was not there all the time. So when I walked into the church where the mass meetings were held at noon time. Andy Young said to me, ah, "Coretta you're going to have to speak today because Malcolm X is here. He's just spoken and he has aroused the people and you need to speak because you need to, ah, you know, to set a nonviolent tone." And I said to Andy, "Well, I really don't feel like speaking. I'm not in the mood to speak today." He said, "Oh, but you've got to speak. You need to. You'll be able to do it. You'll feel like it. And you're going to have to speak." And finally of course I gave in and I did speak. Ah, so I walked out on the platform, or the, and sat down next to him in the pulpit, I guess it was. Ah, well you know I, I felt a little nervous because I hadn't met him before and I really didn't know what he was going to be like. But, ah, you know, after I had spoken. He leaned over and said to me, ah, "Mrs. King, I want you to tell your husband that I had planned to visit him in jail here in Selma but I won't be able to do it now. I have to go back to New York, ah, because I, I have to attend a conference in Europe, an African student conference and I want you to say to him that I didn't come to Selma to make his job more difficult but I thought that if the White people understood what the alternative was that they would be more inclined to listen to your husband. And so that's why I came." And of course I thanked him. And I was naturally, ah, somewhat surprised because I didn't expect him to say that. I don't know what I expected. But he had such a gentle manner and he seemed very sincere and I kept thinking, ah, you know I kept thinking about what he had said and the way he had said it. And of course within about a couple weeks or more he was assassinated and it affected me very deeply because I had met him now and I felt that it was such a tragic loss because he had come around to understand better, I think, non-violence and, and my husband's position and would have been a, I think a force for reconciliation and healing because there was a great need I think between Blacks and Blacks, ah, for that kind of thing. And I felt also that if he had lived, ah, particularly in the latter part of the '60s that he probably could have been a tremendous, ah, bridge, you know, in bringing Black Muslims and, and, other Black people, ah, in the Civil Rights Movement together. Ah, and, for days I had this pain almost like, this feeling in my chest, a feeling of depression, and, ah, just feeling as if, ah, I had lost someone very dear to me, and I, you know, I couldn't quite understand but then I began to realize, ah, I guess what an impact he had made on me in that very short period of time in knowing him.