Betty & Coretta turn history into ‘herstory’

Betty & Coretta turn history into ‘herstory’

10:30 SAST | 24 Jan 2017

You’ve heard of the heroics of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in fighting for African American rights, but what about their wives? Discover their extraordinary story in Betty & Coretta on Kwesé Movies (Ch 111, 16 February 20:00 CAT).

The film depicts the lives of Coretta Scott King (Angela Bassett) and Betty Shabazz (Mary J. Blige) following the assassinations of their respective husbands, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The two women join forces to raise their families, and lift the spirit of their people. Here are a few things you probably didn’t known about Betty and Coretta:

At one stage Betty danced professionally, while Coretta was a gifted musician and loved singing. Coretta and King were married at her parents’ house in 1953, in a ceremony conducted by King’s father, Martin Luther King Sr.

Betty and Malcolm X did not have a conventional courtship. Instead, the couple double-dated with friends. The self-educated and widely read Malcolm X frequently took groups on visits to New York's museums and libraries, and he always invited Betty. They were married in1958, in Michigan.

Betty was sitting near the stage with her daughters, watching her husband speak, when Malcom X was assassinated. On hearing gunfire, she shoved her children beneath a bench, shielding them with her body. When the shooting stopped she performed CPR on her husband; Malcolm X was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

Coretta founded the King Center and campaigned to make his birthday a national holiday. She finally succeeded when Ronald Reagan signed legislation which established Martin Luther King Jr. Day (the third Monday of January each year) which is around King's birthday, January 15.

Half the royalties of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published in 1965, went to Betty and was of great financial help in bringing up the couple's children. Coretta published her memoir My Life with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1969.

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