As the country celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, #SeeHer Story is looking back at the distinguished life of his wife, Coretta Scott King — a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and lifelong activist.
The goal of #SeeHer Story, a digital video series from Katie Couric Media and PEOPLE, is to recognize female trailblazers throughout the past 100 years and celebrate how they’ve helped to shape history and culture.
As this year marks the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, the series hopes to commemorate such an important time for women in history by recognizing fearless women who have made strides for others to follow in their footsteps.
Born in 1927 in Marion, Alabama, Coretta faced racism first-hand from a young age. At only 15, her family home was destroyed by arsonists.
She knew she wanted to make a difference — Coretta studied political activism at Antioch College and music at a conservatory in Boston. While earning her degree, Coretta met and quickly connected with a theology student, Martin Luther King, Jr.
The two bonded over Gandhi’s example of nonviolent protests and wed in 1953.
Coretta and Martin made a home for themselves in Montgomery, Alabama where Martin worked as a reverend.
The couple soon made waves in the Civil Rights Movement in 1955, taking a leadership position in the protests that ensued after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus for a white person.
“We found ourselves in the middle of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Martin was elected leader of the protest movement. As the boycott continued, I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself,” Coretta said in the video.
While fighting for equality, the two faced devasting racism themselves. In 1956, the King’s front porch was destroyed by a homemade bomb while Coretta was home with her newborn daughter and family friend.
Despite their hardships, Coretta and Martin persevered. While Martin led peaceful protests and gave inspirational speeches, Coretta was always by his side. She led a series of her own demonstrations in the form of freedom concerts.
Martin was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968 — but Coretta didn’t let her passion for activism die with him.
“The world is in dire need of a spiritual awakening which will make those eternal values of love, justice, mercy and peace meaningful in our time,” Coretta said in the clip.
She continued working in the world of advocacy, founding the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center and working on causes including nuclear disarmament, anti-apartheid and gay and lesbian rights.
In 1983, President Reagan signed legislation to create a holiday in Martin’s honor, with the tremendous help of Coretta.
Since Coretta’s passing in 2006 at 78 years old, her daughter Dr. Bernice King, has carried on her legacy as the CEO of her mother’s foundation.
#SeeHer Story will also be a regular feature in PEOPLE’s print edition, the weekday morning newsletter Wake-Up Call with Katie Couric, on PeopleTV’s entertainment show PEOPLE Now as well as on PEOPLE Now Weekend.