MLK's daughter Yolanda King dies
51-year-old was actress, advocate
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Atlanta -- Yolanda King, the firstborn child of the first family
of the civil rights movement, who honored that legacy through acting and
advocacy, died late Tuesday. She was 51. The daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King died in Santa Monica, Calif. Family
members did not know the cause of death, but suspect it might have been a heart
"This is just the last thing and the last person that we
expected this to happen to," said Issac Newton Farris, the Kings' cousin and
chief executive officer of the King Center. Former Mayor Andrew Young, a
lieutenant of her father's who has remained close to the family, said King was
going to her brother Dexter's home when she collapsed in the doorway. Yolanda
King, who lived in California, appeared in numerous films including "Ghosts of
Mississippi" and played Rosa Parks in the 1978 miniseries "King." She also ran a
"She used her acting ability to dramatize the
essence of the movement," said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who
worked alongside King's father. "She could motivate and inspire and tell the
story. I heard her recite I Have A Dream' on several occasions.
"She made it real, made it part of her. I think her father
would've been very, very proud of her."
Yolanda King's death came
less than a year and a half after Coretta Scott King died in January 2006 after
battling ovarian cancer and the effects of a stroke. Her struggle prompted her
daughter to become a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, raising
awareness, especially among blacks, about stroke.
King, nick named Yoki by the family, was born Nov. 17, 1955, in Montgomery,
Ala., where her father was then preaching.
She was just 2 weeks
old when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus there, leading to the
Montgomery bus boycott spearheaded by King's father. When the family's house was
firebombed eight weeks later, she and her mother were at home but were not hurt.
She was a young girl during her father's famous stay in the
Birmingham, Ala., jail. She was 12 years old when he was assassinated in
Memphis, Tenn., in 1968.
"She lived with a lot of the trauma of
our struggle," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who worked with her father. "The
movement was in her DNA."
The Rev. Al Sharpton called King a
"torchbearer for her parents and a committed activist in her own right."
White House press secretary Tony Snow said President Bush and the
first lady were sad to learn of King's death, adding, "Our thoughts are with the
King family today."
Yolanda King founded and led Higher Ground
Productions, billed as a "gateway for inner peace, unity and global
In 1963, when she was 7, her father mentioned her
and her siblings at the March on Washington, saying: "I have a dream that my
four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged
by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
Her brother Martin III was born in 1957; brother Dexter in 1961;
and sister Bernice in 1963. King was a 1976 graduate of Smith College in
Northampton, Mass., where she majored in theater and Afro-American studies. She
also earned a master's degree in theater from New York University.
Funeral arrangements were to be announced later, the family said
in a brief statement.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
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Aslo She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Incorporated (the official national memorial to her father) and was founding Director of the King Center's Cultural Affairs Program. She served on the Partnership Council of Habitat for Humanity, was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a sponsor of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and held a lifetime membership in the NAACP