Interview with Coretta Scott King

We're back on January 26, 1966, 1550 South Hamlin Avenue, can you describe for us your new home as you walk into the building for the first time.


Well, first of all, as I walked up to the third floor and entered the building, first thing I noticed was a very strong smell of urine and, ah, you know, the smell was all over, it perm- permeated the whole apartment it seemed. When I got inside, the living room was of course the first thing I saw, it has a large dirty couch, ah, in the living room and the walls were very dirty. Ah, it was not the kind of place that you would want to live in. We had to get it fixed up. I think it had to be, ah, repaired and all. But we had to look at it first to see whether this was what we wanted. And of course, we wanted something that was very typical of the way people had to live. And we found it. Ah, in other words the place was generally broken down, ah, nothing worked: toilets, refrigerator, stove, everything had to be repaired. Ah, but this was the kind of living that I'm sure most people in the area encounter daily. Ah, I knew of course I didn't have to live there permanently so I could live there for that period of time and, ah, and be very comfortable and satisfied because it was for a purpose, it was for the cause, the sake of the cause. Ah, of course the place was fixed up a bit by the landlord when he found out that Martin Luther King, Jr., was going to be renting it. And, ah, even, ah, painting it up and, and getting some different furniture, ah, you know, still didn't improve it but so much, ah. But one of the things that I, I realized, ah, living there, you begin to feel a sense of close identification with the people in the neighborhood. They were, they were so happy to have us there. I mean they, they extended such a warm welcome. And, ah, you know we lived in the neighborhood where there were gangs and one of the, ah, one of the gangs, the, I think it was the, ah, Blackstone Rangers, ah, lived in that neighborhood. And of course they came and offered their protection. They said, "You don't need, Dr. King you don't need any police we can take care of you and we're going to take care of you so don't you worry about a thing." And they came to visit us from time to time and of course, ah, I remember one night, ah, one of them came upstairs and knocked on the door and we opened up and he wanted to come in and we said to come in, Dr. King said, "Come in and have a seat." And it just happened to have been at a time when, ah, Martin had sent out for some barbecue and so he sat there and he said "Are you Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., are you Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr." And, ah Martin said, "Yes, I am." He said, "Are you really? You don't mean that this cats been up there in Washington, eating with Presidents, eating filet mignon steak and here he's sitting down here eating barbecue just like me." And of course we really knew then we had it made because he saw Martin as another human being that ate the same kind of food, lived in the same kind of home, house, apartment and so on. But it was, it was a great feeling you know, knowing that these people really cared and that they would, they would be there whatever we needed. And we didn't want them to use any weapons or to be violent. But it was, we knew that they were not going to do anything to harm us but they would do everything they could to protect us.