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Before crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge or leading protesters in the March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. came to Boston and fell in love with Coretta Scott.
King and Scott were both students in the city in the 1950s; Scott attended the New England Conservatory of Music, while King earned a doctorate from Boston University. The pair went on to build a relationship committed to politics and civil rights.
A new documentary, "Legacy of Love," explores the beginnings of that relationship. Director, producer and writer Roberto Mighty told WBUR's All Things Considered host Lisa Mullins that had Boston not brought the Kings together as students, they may have never met.
"The two of them were introduced by a mutual friend who worked at Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury... And this woman happened to know King, and this woman knew Coretta Scott, and she thought they might be an interesting match for each other. They were both studious, they were both politically-minded, and they were both extremely well-educated and very, very serious.
"By the end of their first date, he turns to her and says something to the effect of 'You have all the qualities I’ve ever wanted in a wife.' And in her autobiography [Coretta Scott] says she was quite taken aback by that."
On their political relationship:
"Coretta in particular was already talking — now this is 1952 when they meet — she’s already talking about anti-nuclear war ideas, she’s already talking about the idea of women’s rights. This is pretty radical stuff for 1952.
"Martin was more interested in human rights, more interested in uplifting what would at that time have been called the Negro race. As time goes on, as we get past the 1960s, Martin’s thinking opens up.
"One of the scholars in the film at Stanford University [Clayborne Carson], he emphasizes Coretta was from the very beginning a leftward influence on Martin, politically."
On their relationship with Boston
"Boston was a northeastern city that had a reputation for allowing in a certain, small number of African American students into its colleges and universities. But the mayors were white, the governors were white, the school committees were white... Boston was definitely a town of de facto segregation in the 1950s and 1960s.
"So the Kings met here, they were brought together here by school, they formed their ideas, they formed their pact ... to change the world, they wrote back and forth about that. And then they left Boston and went to other parts of the country to fulfill that goal."
"Legacy of Love" will air Thursday, Aug. 6, at 9 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 9, at 6:30 p.m. on WGBH.
This segment aired on August 6, 2020.
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