A memorial honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King is being unveiled Friday in Boston, where the couple met and studied in the 1950s.
The Embrace, a bronze sculpture on Boston Common, commemorates the Kings’ efforts for racial and social equity. The memorial also serves as a remembrance of the couple’s love story that bloomed in Boston.
King first arrived in Boston in 1951 where he was a graduate student at Boston University, studying systematic theology. While earning his doctorate, King attended classes at Harvard and worked as an assistant minister at Boston’s historic Twelfth Baptist Church.
During his time as a student, King lived in the South End, according to the New England Historical Society.
“I remember very well trying to find a place to live,” King said, quoted in a Globe article from April 23, 1965. “I went into place after place where there were signs that rooms were for rent. They were for rent until they found out I was a Negro, and suddenly they had just been rented.”
He would meet his wife in January 1952 after a mutual friend introduced the two, according to King’s autobiography. King and Scott, who was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music, would often talk about racial and economic injustices in society. They married on June 18, 1953.
King writes that Scott was a constant source of support and consolation for him throughout the civil rights movement.
“I wish I could say that I led her down this path, but I must say we went down it together because she was as actively involved and concerned when we met as she is now,” King wrote in his autobiography.
After finishing his academic requirements, King left Boston in 1954 when he was called as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., according to King’s autobiography. While finishing his doctoral dissertation in Montgomery, he finally earned his PhD from Boston University in 1955. However, he was unable to attend his graduation due to Scott’s pregnancy and financial hardships.
A few months after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, King returned to Boston in April 1965 to deliver a speech before a joint legislative session at the Massachusetts State House. King called for an end “to racial injustice and segregation in every area of life in Boston and America,” according to a 1965 Globe article.
The next day, King led a freedom march in Roxbury focused on racial and social inequity, as well as segregated education. More than 20,000 people gathered for the rally, marching from Roxbury down Columbus Avenue to Boston Common, the Globe reported.
King had met with members of the Interdenominational, Interracial, Ministerial Alliance of Boston, and the Boston Catholic Interracial Council to familiarize himself with any issues occurring in Roxbury, according to a 1965 news article from The Harvard Crimson.
“We, so often feel we’re nobody. Our children grow up in a system that says ‘You don’t count.’ Well I’ve come to Boston to tell you that you are somebody,” King said in a speech during the rally, according to a 1965 Globe article.
The monument being unveiled on Friday serves to recognize the all of the individuals who fought for civil rights in Boston over the last several decades.
“The Embrace,” which stands about 22 feet tall, consists of four arms wrapped together. The memorial was five years in the making, drawing public and private financial support to honor the Kings in a city where the couple spent their formative years.
The memorial will be unveiled during a 1 p.m. ceremony, which will kick off a weekend celebration, ahead of MLK’s 94th birthday on Sunday. On Monday, a day of service will be conducted across Boston on the official federal holiday celebrating King’s birthday.
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