Journalists Roundtable, Feb. 4, 2017
At the Newseum with Barbara Reynolds
Photos (c) Don Baker/Don Baker Photography Group
Thanks in great measure to Coretta Scott King, the nation celebrates the birthday of her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., each January as a national holiday. Coretta King was “the architect of his legacy,” according to her biographer, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds. She added, “but who is nurturing her legacy?”
Reynolds, an author, blogger and columnist who has worked at the Chicago Tribune and USA Today, believes that Mrs. King’s birthday, April 27, should be celebrated, too. “Why should we always celebrate her birthday on his birthday?”
At the Newseum in Washington on the Saturday afternoon of Feb. 4, the Journalists Roundtable joined the Newseum in sponsoring a presentation by Reynolds about Coretta Scott King’s “as told to” memoir, “My Life, My Love, My Legacy.” The roundtable’s Jeannine Hunter captured the session from the audience on Periscope. < https://www.periscope.tv/w/1OyJAAjpEOeJb# >, and Don Baker produced photographs.
This was the first roundtable activity open to the public since the group began in 1999. About 18 of its members and guests were among the 247 people, mostly members of the Newseum < http://www.newseum.org/support/membership/ >, who heard Reynolds make the case that the legacy of Coretta King, who died in 2006 at age 78, deserved to be celebrated on its own.
“She was as much a minister as Dr. King was,” Reynolds said onstage as she was interviewed by John Maynard, the Newseum’s director of exhibit programming and a former Washington Post reporter.
“The good thing is, now she’s coming out of the shadows. She had to wait perhaps for her time. The news people would call her ‘the widow of Dr. King’ or ‘the wife of’ or ‘this of.’ She would say, ‘Can you see me? I’m a woman, I’m a mother, I’m an activist, I’m a humanitarian. Now, can you finally see me?
“And that’s what we have to do as women. We have to write about other women. Because we have to make people see. Young ladies, they need role models. They need to be inspired, so you can’t hide yourself. . . . ” Reynolds drew applause when she linked that belief to the women’s marches held the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. “Millions of women showed up. Wasn’t that something?”
In the half-hour interview, Reynolds took the audience from Martin and Coretta’s first meeting in 1952 through Mrs. King’s realization that she was “married to the movement,” through the 1968 assassination and her continuation of their advocacy for Memphis trash collectors just three days after the murder.
Reynolds described Coretta King’s efforts at coalition building and learning the art of lobbying in order to help establish the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. This during the Richard Nixon administration from a woman who was on Nixon’s “enemies list.” Among other obstacles as she established the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change in Atlanta, “the same men who supported her husband would not support her.”
But Coretta King thought positive. She sent a team to South Africa to teach the King philosophy of nonviolence to during that country’s first democratic elections in 1994, and taught them domestically to the Crips and the Bloods.
“I’m glad I became a minister so I could finally understand where she got her strength from,” Reynolds said. “when we traveled together, the first thing she would do is open the Bible and she would say, “What do you think about that?”
She answered a question about her bond with Myrlie Evers Williams and Betty Shabazz, the widows of slain leaders Medgar Evers and Malcolm X, respectively, and heard from an audience member who told her that a Coretta King memorial garden planted in Annapolis, Md., was the nation’s only memorial to her.
Another asked about the Kings’ youngest child, the Rev. Bernice King. Reynolds explained that the children were “complex people.”
“I looked at the King siblings in a very sympathetic way. I told Bernice, myself, I can’t begin to understand how you must feel. You lost your father at five years old, I believe that’s what it was, you grew up with your mother, knowing there [were] threats — she couldn’t hide it all — and then, one day, your grandmother was sitting in church playing the piano, and a guy came in there and killed her grandmother while she was playing the Lord’s Prayer.
“Then you had, too, your sister died of a heart attack, and two cousins died of a heart attack. When Dr. King Sr. died, it was the first person in your family to die a normal death. . . .
“Their mother told them to be your own best self. But so often people bring their identities to other people and get mad at ’em when they don’t do what they think they ought to do. So it’s difficult being the only living daughter of the two greatest humanitarians” in America. . . .
Reynolds signed copies of her book until the Newseum sold out of them. It sold 40 of them, and others brought their own.
” We arranged for Barbara to sign stickers for those who didn’t get a book so they can buy a book later and slap the sticker with her autograph inside the book,” Maynard said. “People seemed pretty happy with that.”
The event also marked the debut of the roundtable’s first logo, designed by Carol Porter, a graphic designer/artist who has spent many years at the Washington Post.
The first roundtable took place in May 1999 with Alice Bonner, Betty Anne Williams, Bobbi Bowman, Richard Prince and Bill Alexander. The purpose was to commemorate Alice’s return to Washington after obtaining a Ph.D at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Paul Delaney, Jessica Lee and Walt Swanston-NuevaEspana were also among the early founders.
When Alice left, she asked that we keep the gatherings going while she was gone, and we have. Some of the faces at the dinner gatherings have changed, but the enthusiasm for the fellowship has only grown. Ivan Roman Don Baker Flo Purnell Mary Wisniewski Nichelle Smith Walt Swanston Vernon Smith Jack White Lynne Adrine Carol Porter Jeannine Hunter Jason Miccolo Johnson Charles Robinson Nolu Crockett-Ntonga Gene Policinski Barbara Reynolds
Richard Prince., a co-founder of the Journalists Roundtable, and Barbara Reynolds in the “green room” before the event begins. The Journalists Roundtable joined with the Newseum in Washington on Feb. 4, 2017, in a book event featuring the Rev. Barbara Reynolds, who has written Coretta Scott King’s “as told to” memoir, “My Life, My Love, My Legacy.”Reynolds was interviewed by John Maynard, the Newseum’s director of exhibit programming and a former Washington Post reporter. She answered questions from audience members and signed books until the Newseum was sold out of them. Narrative: http://bit.ly/2jTjd9w Photos (c) Don Baker/Don Baker Photography Group
Reynolds was interviewed by John Maynard, the Newseum’s director of exhibit programming and a former Washington Post reporter. She answered questions from audience members and signed books until the Newseum was sold out of them.