The body of Coretta Scott King, the widow of slain US Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., has arrived back in the city where she lived, Atlanta, Georgia. Early today, police cars escorted a hearse carrying her body to a funeral home. Local reports say funeral arrangements have not yet been made.
Mrs. King died early yesterday at an alternative medicine clinic in Mexico. Doctors say the 78-year-old was fighting ovarian cancer and ultimately died of respiratory failure.
Mrs. King carried on her husband's work after his assassination, creating the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Non-Violent Social Change in Atlanta.
Author Gene Pace grew up in the American South during the civil rights movement and wrote an award-winning book about those times called “A True Blood.“ He told Voice of America reporter while Mrs. King’s death marks the end of an era for the civil rights movement, many questions still remain.
“Even though we are making her passing (Coretta Scott King) as an end of an era, I’m not absolutely sure which era we are speaking about. If we are talking about the era that began in 1954 with the Supreme Court landmark decision Brown vs. the Board of Education in Topeka, then that era probably ended in the 70’s. So what we’ve seen over the last 20 years or so is a languishing of the issues that involve race. When it generally comes up it comes up as a hot button, emotional issue. So even though race is still very much an emotional part of American society, I’m not sure where we stand as a nation.”
Pace said African Americans have become victims of their own success in the civil rights movement. He gave examples: the right to vote; the right to public access; the right to an education. He adds that what wasn’t addressed were issues among blacks that would have them become more productive members in society than they are today.
Pace said the struggle today for blacks is more of a class struggle than a racial struggle, and the race issue he said gets lost within the class struggle. He explained, “It’s boiling down to the haves and have-nots. And as that group of have-nots continues to grow not just here in America, but worldwide, because we now truly live in a global community. And as that group of have-nots continue to grow and become frustrated with their lack of ability to engage and become a part of a prosperous society, I think that is creating some tension.”
Pace said one solution would be for the civil rights generation to help educate young people about the origins of -- and the reasons behind -- the civil rights movement.