Edgewater gardens to honor activist Coretta Scott King

Anne Arundel County site will be one of the nation's first memorials honoring human rights activist

  • This rendering was on display at a groundbreaking for the Coretta Scott King Memorial Garden.
This rendering was on display at a groundbreaking for the Coretta… (Perna, Algerina, Baltimore…)
February 27, 2011|By Edward Gunts, The Baltimore Sun

After retiring recently as a teacher's assistant for the Anne Arundel County schools system, Idamae Sims says she's far from wealthy.

But when she learned about plans to create a memorial honoring human rights activist Coretta Scott King, she donated $1,000.

"I felt that I had to do it," Sims, 72, said Sunday. "I was born in 1938. I lived through the civil rights era. Dr. [Martin Luther] King and his wife did a lot. I felt I should give back."

Sims is one of dozens of Marylanders who gathered Sunday in Edgewater to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the Coretta Scott King Memorial Gardens, a $200,000 "living memorial" to the activist, who died on January 31, 2006.

Maryland needs tangible reminders of people who led the struggle for human rights, Sims said.

"Our children need something that they can see, something that they can touch," she said. "It's important to be able to … learn what they did for our benefit."

When complete this spring, the project will be one of the first memorials in the country honoring Coretta Scott King, other than her gravesite in Georgia. Its opening will come five years after a monument was completed to her husband, the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., at Anne Arundel Community College.

In addition, Anne Arundel County will be one of the first jurisdictions in the nation with two memorials honoring the Kings. The gardens will join a growing line of memorials and plaques in Maryland honoring civil rights leaders, including Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X, "Roots" author Alex Haley and others.

The gardens are being created on the grounds of Sojourner Douglass College, which opened its Anne Arundel County campus on Stepney Lane in 2004. The project is a joint venture of The Maryland Office of the Attorney General and the nonprofit Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee. The sponsors are raising private funds for the memorial and have already received more than $50,000 in donations.

Carl O. Snowden, chairman of the King committee and director of the state attorney general's civil rights office, said the sponsors decided to honor Coretta Scott King five years after the monument to her husband was finished.

He said Coretta Scott King deserves a separate memorial because she became a strong advocate for human rights after her husband was assassinated in 1968. Coretta Scott King was a champion for women's rights, gay rights and labor rights, and she led the push to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday, Snowden said.

"It does such a disservice to describe her as the widow of Martin Luther King Jr." he said. "She developed her own legacy as an advocate for non-violence and civil rights. … She made a contribution in her own right."

Coretta Scott King "was not just a citizen of America," he said. "She was a citizen of the world."

The memorial is being designed and installed by Homestead Gardens of Davidsonville. The memorial will have a raised stone planter made with a fountain in the center and perimeter seating facing plaques bearing six sayings by Coretta Scott King and biographical information, Homestead representatives Jeff Opel and Heather Davidson said. Many of the flowers in the gardens will be in shades of pink and red — her favorite colors.

"We hope we will make this an inspirational reflection of her life and all that she enjoyed," Opel said.

The memorial will be given to Sojourner Douglass College, and college officials have agreed to maintain it. Leaders there said Sunday that they believe it is appropriate to have one of the nation's first memorials to Coretta Scott King on their campus because Sojourner Douglass started as a branch of Ohio's Antioch College, and Coretta Scott King was an Antioch graduate.

"Antioch was one of the first schools in the country that admitted women and African-Americans," noted Sojourner Douglass founder and president Charles Simmons. "Coretta Scott King was a graduate of Antioch. To have a memorial to her here is very fitting. We have come full circle."

Sponsors plan to dedicate the gardens on April 27, which would have been Coretta Scott King's 84th birthday.


    Baltimore Sun Articles
    Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.