The widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., died on Jan. 30, 2006. She had devoted her life to his legacy. An activist long before she met her husband, she embraced a vegan diet in 1995 due to the influence of her son, Dexter Scott King. Coretta believed that promoting animal rights was the next “logical extension” of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy of non-violence.
“She would always admonish us that … one of the ways you bring about change is, you must change yourself so that you’re prepared to lead people in the direction they should go. If your emotions are as bad as those you’re fighting, even if your cause is just, you disqualify yourself from being effective,” the Rev. Al Sharpton told CNN.
Rev. Jesse Jackson recounted that when an assassin’s bullet killed her husband in Memphis in 1968, just prior to a planned march, Mrs. King organized her husband’s funeral, then “went to Memphis and finished the march. She was a staunch freedom fighter.”
Mrs. King spoke out “on behalf of racial and economic justice, women’s and children’s rights, gay and lesbian dignity, religious freedom, the needs of the poor and homeless, full employment, health care, educational opportunities, nuclear disarmament and ecological sanity,” says the biography on The King Center’s Web site.
Her son Dexter Scott King who just turned 45, is a prominent civil rights activist in his own right. He is currently Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc. (The King Center), in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. King has served as a member of the board of directors since 1984. In 1987, he was introduced to vegetarianism by comedian/activist Dick Gregory (more about him below).
Gregory is also no stranger to the fight against injustice. He has been an influential figure in the civil rights movement for more than 40 years and was an outspoken advocate for peace during the Vietnam War. He is also an enthusiastic PETA supporter and has recorded two public service announcements – one urging people to boycott circuses that use animals in what he calls “modern-day slavery”, and the other a narrated expose of KFC’s cruelty to chickens [view].
“Veganism has given me a higher level of awareness and spirituality, primary because the energy associated with eating has shifted to other areas,” Dexter King told Vegetarian Times in a 1995 interview.
The King family name is practically synonymous with the principles of non-violence, and Dexter King believes that vegetarianism is the logical extension of that philosophy. “If you’re violent to yourself by putting [harmful] things into your body that violate its spirit, it will be difficult not to perpetuate that [violence] onto someone else,” he said.
During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. captured the attention of the American nation with his commitment to the method of nonviolent resistance. According to Dr. King, this was the only solution that could cure society’s evil and create a just society. In 1959, he visited India to study Mohandas Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence.
If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore Gandhi at our own risk.
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
– From his famous speech delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
A King among men: Martin Luther King Jr.’s son blazes his own trail – Dexter Scott King
Vegetarian Times, Oct, 1995
MLK Day: Vegan Soul Food
DCist.com, January 16, 2006
Coretta Scott King dies
CNN, Tuesday, January 31, 2006
“Under the leadership of Dr. King, I became totally committed to nonviolence, and I was convinced that nonviolence meant opposition to killing in any form. I felt the commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill applied to human beings not only in their dealings with each other (war, lynching, assassination, murder and the like) but in their practice of killing animals for food and sport. Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel and brutal taking of life.”
– Dick Gregory, comedian & activist, from his memoir, Callus on my Soul