Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta King mural unveiled in Roxbury to celebrate their relationship

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Mol Webber

Martin Luther King Jr. depicted in the “Roxbury Love Story” mural outside the Melnea Residence apartment complex. The mural was painted by local Boston artists Ekua Holmes and Rob Gibbs.

A new mural and walking tour was unveiled in West Roxbury Friday to honor Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta King. 

Local artists Ekua Holmes and Rob Gibbs painted the mural to memorialize the love story of King and his wife. Although King was a Georgia native, he attended Boston University for his doctorate’s degree in systematic theology and spent time in Boston as an assistant minister at the Twelfth Baptist Church, where he later met Coretta. 

The Old Twelfth Baptist Church on a Boston city map where King preached as an assistant minister from 1951 to 1954. (Clennon L. King)

The mural, entitled “Roxbury Love Story,” is located on the side of the Melnea Residence apartment complex, where the Baptist church in which King preached was once located.

“Roxbury Love Story” is the first landmark of the “Martin and Coretta’s Love Story” tour, which consists of ten stops in Roxbury, Back Bay and Beacon Hill that mark important locations within the couple’s relationship. 

The Roxbury mural depicts the Kings on the telephone with each other on different panels of the Melnea Residence.

Muralist Rob “ProBlak” Gibbs commented on the choice of this specific image and its significance to the love story. 

“There’s a hero to this piece, and it’s the line of the communication. If you look at them on the telephone it is a very classic and traditional exchange,” he said during the press conference. 

Kamran Zahedi, developer of the apartment complex, spoke about the need to commemorate the history of the building’s location.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta King on two separate wall panels of the Melnea Residence. (Clennon L. King)

“As a developer, I recognized my responsibility to celebrate the rich history and soil where our apartment building stands. I wanted to not only honor the Kings’ love story, but also this neighborhood where they fell in love,” Zahedi said in the press release.

Kai Grant, chief curator of Black Market and concept developer of “Roxbury Love Story,” reached out to Zahedi to mark this location of the Kings’ love story and honor them. A portion of the plaque located on the mural emphasizes the importance of the Kings’ residence in Roxbury.

Grant explained how the historic information was discovered and eventually commissioned into the mural.

“In March of 2019, our neighborhood list server received an email from journalist and historian Clennon King…What we learned from that email was the catalyst to this project that you see behind us…Dr. King and Coretta Scott actually had their courtship right here on the site of the historic Twelfth Baptist Church in the early 50s,” she said during the press conference.

Beside the mural, a plaque has been placed to outline the walking tour and memorial, along with the other sites of their relationship. 

“The following year [1953], they married, making their first home together less than a mile from where you are standing,” the plaque reads. “In 1954, they left Boston, heading to Montgomery, Alabama, and to a shared life of service that ultimately changed the world.” 

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