It was 7:01 p.m. in Memphis when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, close to her bedtime, so she didn’t know about the tragedy until the next day. Her mother, Coretta Scott King, headed to the airport the next day. When Coretta returned to Atlanta on April 5, 1968, Bernice and her siblings were taken to the airport to meet her and board a plane.
Dr. King, who fought against ... what he called the triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism, is very relevant to us now. Bernice King “ was really a super woman; she raised four kids while helping to raise a nation and keep it from teetering on the edge of violent, just continual violent outbreaks. Yes, there were riots after my dad was assassinated, but really, I think her posture on April the 8th when she went to Memphis to lead that march he was scheduled to lead, and what she said was so critical to quelling some of the tension at the time,” she recalled, stating that her mother shaped the King legacy.
Bettmann via Getty Images Coretta Scott King and her children celebrate the announcement that King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 16, 1964. “For a man who was very hated, and one of the most hated, in fact, during the time of the assassination, and now one of the most loved in the world, and really that’s because of her work, her effort on the day-to-day basis,” Bernice added.
Despite the weight their name carried, Bernice said her mom never put added pressure on her. “You don’t have to be your father. You don’t have to be me, just be your best self,” Coretta would tell her.
Even so, it was Bernice’s calling to continue her parents’ mission.
The youngest child of four, Bernice chose to walk in the path of ministry at a young age. As her father did, Bernice married her faith with activism throughout her life, becoming the second woman to be ordained at Ebenezer Baptist Church and the first woman to be elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a position she turned down.
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