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The Marriage of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott

By Lori Perkins


As we celebrate this national holiday I wondered about the wedding of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott, because I didn’t recall seeing any of those photos. I know we don’t think of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a romantic, but being the editor of this romance-centric magazine, I really wanted to know about their early courtship.


And it was quite romantic in the 1950’s kind of way.


A mutual friend set them up. King was getting his Ph.D. from Boston Theological Seminary and Coretta was studying music at The Boston Conservatory of Music. It appears he was instantly smitten (but everyone also said he was on the hunt for a wife) while Coretta was just beginning to explore her freedom from her former life in Alabama. In her autobiography, My Life, My Love, My Legacy, she mentioned that she wasn’t impressed with him at first because he had shaved his mustache (for a fraternity pledge), which made him look very baby-faced, and he was kind of short, but as she got to know him, she felt he seemed to grow taller. Martin, on the other hand, said he knew instantly that he would marry her, and was quite impressed that she was already knowledgeable about civil rights.


They were married 16 months after they met at the Scott’s home in Alabama, with 350 guests. It was the largest wedding in Alabama in 1953 according to The New York Times coverage. Martin’s father was the officiating pastor; Coretta’s sister was her Maid of Honor; Martin’s brother was his best man.


But the detail that I found most amazing about the wedding was that way back in 1953 Coretta Scott was such a feminist that she had the word “obey” removed from her vows, which was unheard of at that time. In her autobiography she wrote, “I had made up my mind that I wanted the traditional language about ‘obeying’ and submitting to my husband deleted from our marriage vows. The language made me feel too much like an indentured servant.”