Transcript for Coretta Scott King Speaks Out in Posthumous Memoir: 'This Family Was Chosen'
Revealing and exclusive new recordings tonight of the late Coretta Scott king, wife and close advisor to Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. ABC's robin Roberts sits down with their daughter Berneice. I have a dream. Reporter: Some of the most revered words in American history. I have a dream. That one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal. Reporter: Martin Luther king jr.'s "I have a dream" speech heralding his vision of racial justice and equality in America. Cementing his place in history. But Coretta Scott king, wife of the man we honor today, was herself crucial to the struggle for civil rights. She was a very powerful woman. Reporter: Dr. Bernice king is the youngest of the couple's four children. She used to say, came from great stock. And martin didn't make her. When they met, she was prepared. Reporter: In newly released audiotapes, Mrs. King made it clear from the beginning of their marriage that she would be a force to be reckoned with. Listen closely to this exclusive recording as Mrs. King recalls a conversation she had with her husband. I said, well you know, I love being your wife and the mother of your children, but if that was all that I did, I would go crazy. Reporter: The tapes of the basis of her posthumously released memoir "My life, my love, my legacy." Your father wrote this about your mother. A wife could either make or break a husband. My wife was always stronger than I was through the struggle. In the darkest moments, she always brought the light of hope. Was that your mom? In those crisis moments, in those very difficult, challenging times, she rose to an occasion. She could carry you. She could carry many people. I believe that martin was chosen, I believe that I was chosen. And I say to the kids, this family was chosen as well. Reporter: Mrs. King believed in their purpose as leaders of the civil rights movement. She thought she was as destined as him. Exactly. To do good things, great things. Yes. And not because she was his wife. Nonviolence is the most powerful force that we have for the counteracting of hatred, bitterness, and violence which has infested our society. And I honestly believe in a different kind of way she did greater things. Probably because she lived longer. But also because she had the insight to see who he really was. Reporter: Out of the spotlight, the kings were like any other young couple. She had one simple wish. I told him, every woman wants a house. That's all I need is a house. As long as I have my own house, I'm fine. Your father was like, no, because he didn't want to think it was benefitting from the movement. Your mom was like, I want a house! And she got that. So it tells you a little bit about her tenacity. Yes, definitely. It also came out of her feeling and sensing that he was not going to be there long. And if something happens, you know, what are we going to have? Reporter: Mrs. King's tenacity and strength were put to the test in 1956 when the house they were living in was bombed. Think about this. Daddy was the leader but mother was the one who first experienced the manifestation of a threat. She was in the home when it was bombed, not him. And her baby girl. And the baby girl. Like god designed it this way. Because she had to first come to a resolve, I'm willing to risk the loss of my own life, before even him. Reporter: Mrs. King says their marriage was further tested in 1964 when FBI tapes claimed to expose her husband's alleged infidelities, although Mrs. King denied any truth to the rumors. All this stuff is fabricated. I think that was martin's great concern that something could happen like that. Because see, my husband was one of the most moral persons that I have ever known. At every level. Personally as well as publicly. I mean, he struggled to make sure that he was worthy of the respect and the love that people had for him. She said, I know my husband. And if he were having an affair, I would know. Reporter: The couple had been married for almost 15 years when, on April 4th, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated at the Lorraine motel in Memphis, Tennessee. A sniper's bullet cut down Dr. King as he stood on a hotel balcony in Memphis. Most of you know how I feel at this time. And the most important thing that is my husband's work will be carried forward. Reporter: After his death, Mrs. King kept her late husband's memory alive for their children. You know, my mother invoked him every chance she got in our home. You know, if we're at the dinner table, breakfast table, in conversation, she would always Your father would say. Your father. Your father said this. Your father. Reporter: And worked tirelessly to ensure his place in history. All right-thinking Americans are joined in spirit with us this day as the highest recognition which this nation gives is bestowed upon martin Luther king Jr. She was the architect of this king legacy. What we know of my father really came from her resilience, her determination, her faith, her courage. Reporter: Here at the king center in Atlanta, Dr. Bernice king discussed her hope for maintaining her parents' legacy of peace and understanding. How do we use what your mother and father fought so hard for to move forward? His quote and her quote. His quote is, people hate each other because they fear each other and they fear each other because they don't know each other, and they don't know each other because they're not communicating, they don't communicate because they're not connected. On the other hand my mother said, struggle is a never-ending process, freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation. She would help us understand that we have all been called to this freedom struggle in the world. In these times, we have to be not lost and that as we do it, you think about my father's quote, we have to find a way, a common ground that we can move forward in. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm robin Roberts in Atlanta.
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