Behind Coretta's Veil: Black Women and the Burdens of Loss

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Forty years later there are two particularly poignant and enduring images associated with Dr. King's assassination. The first is the circle of men surrounding Martin's body on that Memphis balcony as they point in the direction of the shooter. The second is Coretta Scott King's mournful and resolute face beneath her widow's black veil.

Both images capture the radicalizing power of Dr. King's murder. Together they reveal how responses to racial terrorism are often gendered. Many black men are like contributor Professor Michael Dawson, who found his authentic political voice emerging from the ashes of his beloved, burning city in the aftermath of King's death. Like the men on the balcony, they became the vocal and visible leaders of the continuing movements against injustice.

Many black women swallow their pain, gird their loins and persist against impossible odds when the men they love are destroyed. They are like Medgar's Myrlie, Malcolm's Betty, and Martin's Coretta. Much less visible and vocal, these women become the symbols of strength and endurance in the aftermath of men's murders.

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