Wives of Iconic Black Leaders
Behind Every Great Man…
…There is a great woman. These are women who have sometimes sacrificed their personal ambitions not only for their husbands, but for the greater good of us all. As we celebrate Black History Month, we take a look at the women behind some of our most iconic leaders, from Coretta Scott King to Michelle Obama.
Also known as Betty X, Betty Shabazz was married to prominent civil rights activist Malcolm X. The two met at a dinner party and Betty was instantly impressed with her future husband. They had six daughters together — Attallah, Qubilah, Ilyasah, Gamilah, Malikah and Malaak.
fter her husband’s assassination in 1965, Shabazz made a life-changing pilgrimage to Mecca. She earned her doctorate in 1975 and became an associate professor of health sciences at Medgar Evers College in 1976. Throughout her life, Shabazz was an active volunteer with the NAACP and the National Urban League. She also served on an advisory committee on family planning for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King is the widow of America’s most prominent Civil Rights Leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. The two wed on her mother’s lawn on June 18, 1953. Together they have four children, Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter and Bernice.
Coretta Scott King
Martin Luther King, Jr. often thanked his wife for the sacrifices she made for the Civil Rights Movement. Coretta participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and worked diligently to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After MLK’s 1968 assassination, she continued to lead the fight for racial equality and became a prominent leader in the Women’s Movement.
South African activist, Winnie Mandela married Nelson Mandela in 1958. She would spend most of their 34-year marriage alone because Nelson was imprisoned for 27 years. During those years Winnie fought to keep the legacy of her imprisoned husband alive, earning her the moniker, “Mother of the Nation.”
Winnie Mandela continues to work with the African National Congress’ Women’s League. She continues to campaign against poverty and oppression.
Myrlie Evers-Williams married civil rights leader and Mississippi NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers in 1951. The couple had three children together before Evers was assassinated by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963.
After her husband’s assassination Myrlie Evers-Williams earned a degree in Pomona College and continued her work as an activist helping to found the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. She served as chairman of the NAACP from 1995 to 1998.
Classical pianist Hazel Dorothy Scott married Harlem politician Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., then the first Black congressmen in New York, in 1945. Their marriage would last 11 years.
On her own, Scott was known as a brilliant musician and a fierce campaigner for civil rights. She was also the first Black woman to host her own television show in 1950.
Rachel Annette Isum married Jackie Robinson -the first Black Major League Baseball player – in 1946. The two met at UCLA in 1941 and had three children, Jackie Robinson, Jr., Sharon and David. After her husband’s retirement, Rachel pursued a nursing career and be came an Assistant Professor at Yale School of Nursing and the Director of Nursing at Connecticut Mental Health Center.
When Jackie Robinson died in 1973, Rachel founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation to empower minority youths to succeed through scholarships. She received the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award in 2007 and the UCLA Medal in 2009.
An Ivy-League educated lawyer, Michelle Robinson, met Barack Obama when she had to mentor him during their tenure at a law firm in Chicago. They married in 1992. What a long way a little mentoring goes.
As America’s first Black First Lady, Michelle Obama brings much esteem to the position. She has selected childhood obesity as her cause, and is a vocal advocate of educational rights.