Sunday, May 03, 2009

Civil Rights, The Rainbow Tribe: What every woman should know about Coretta Scott King (and Josephine Baker)

Excerpted from Anna Belle's essay:

"Not many people are aware that Coretta Scott King was also a visionary when it came to Civil Rights, and unsuccessfully fought to expand the movement to include women’s and gay/lesbian rights. A little known fact is that she also tried to tap Josephine Baker to head this expanded movement. Perhaps, considering her long list of accomplishments, we should petition Congress to make the third Monday in January Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Day.

"Coretta Scott King was already heavily involved in the budding Civil Rights movement when she met Dr. King. They are both on record as saying they fell for each other precisely because their values were so in sync with one another. She had already long been a member of the NAACP, and was subjected to an eye-opening experience with racism at Antioch College, where she pursued her B.A. in music education.


"Perhaps it was her love of music and performance that caused her to approach Josephine Baker about heading up the expanded Civil Rights movement she envisioned, and which Dr. King himself had spoken some about before his death. In addition to class issues, which Dr. King spoke about, Coretta Scott King saw that women’s rights and gay/lesbian rights were also civil rights. She wanted the Civil Rights movement to embrace those issues as well, but encountered resistance she correctly feared she could not overcome. The King family had long been friends with Baker and her unusual family, and Coretta Scott King was aware of Baker’s rather progressive views.

"Throughout the time that the Kings were fighting for civil rights, Josephine Baker had led her own public campaign to end racial hostility and racist treatment. In addition to her campaign against the Stork Club in New York, and her refusal to ever perform before segregated audiences, she was committed to living a life that modeled racial harmony. In that effort, Baker adopted 12 children of various ethnic backgrounds, she said as a way to show that people of different backgrounds could live together as brothers and sisters. She called her family “The Rainbow Tribe.” She was so well-known for her civil rights work in America at the time, that in 1963 she was the only woman to speak at the March on Washington, which she did wearing her French Resistance uniform and medal, with Martin Luther King, Jr. at her side."

Read the full essay here.

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