Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Remembering Three Women Who Impacted His Life Pt. II

BLFF Team | Feb 13, 2023


Earlier this month, non-profit organization Embrace Boston unveiled a monument in Boston titled The Embrace, honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King. It was important for Embrace Boston to not only honor Dr. King, but also Mrs. King and the impact she had on his life, as well as her struggles against discrimination, poverty, and sexism.

To kick off Black History Month, Gender on the Ballot is continuing our series on the women who impacted the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Read more about them below.


Dorothy Cotton

Dorothy Cotton was a civil rights activist, leader in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and the Educational Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Cotton’s activism in the Civil Rights Movement began while she was a student at Virginia State University studying English. Cotton assisted Virginia Pastor Wyatt T. Walker who was the regional head of the NAACP. Cotton’s duties with Pastor Walker included helping to protest segregation at libraries and lunch counters, and teaching students direct-action tactics when protesting. Through Cotton’s work with Pastor Walker, she met Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King saw Cotton’s work and inquired about her; he later asked Pastor Walker to move to Atlanta help him with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Walker agreed on the condition that he could bring Cotton and another associate with him. Cotton then became the highest ranking female member of the SCLC, and was appointed by Dr. King to help with the Citizenship Education Program where she worked with fellow activist Septima Clark. Cotton later accompanied Dr. King to Oslo, Norway in 1964 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize and is credited with typing his “I Have a Dream” speech.


Prathia Hall

Prathia Hall was an activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement, a womanist theologian, and ethicist.

Prathia Hall joined the Civil Rights Movement at the age of 15 following the encouragement of her father and her own experiences with discrimination. After graduating with a degree in political science from Temple University, Hall joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). During Hall’s time with SNCC, she worked to register African American people to vote by canvassing door to door, and she taught in Freedom Schools (educational programming regarding voter registration rights). Hall later went to work in Terrell County, Georgia violence against civil rights activists. While at a service in Terrell County commemorating a church that was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan, Hall delivered a prayer in which she repeated the phrase, “I have a dream.” In attendance of this commemoration was Dr. King who SCLC strategist James Bevel said was moved by Hall’s words and inspired to use them in his speeches moving forward, later leading to his prolific “I Have a Dream Speech.” Hall later held the Martin Luther King, Jr. Chair in social ethics at the Boston University School of Theology.


Dora McDonald

Dora McDonald was Dr. King’s personal secretary, trusted adviser, and close family friend.

After graduating from South Carolina State College, McDonald worked as the secretary for Benjamin Mays, President of Morehouse College. When Dr. King returned to Alabama and was in need of a secretary, Mays highly recommended McDonald. Prior to working for Dr. King, McDonald was not heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement but she became impassioned with the cause upon becoming his secretary. McDonald’s secretarial duties included: fielding telephone calls, typing speeches and manuscripts, answering correspondence, keeping track of his calendar, and traveling with him. McDonald was also working for Dr. King during some of his biggest accomplishments including the Nobel Peace Prize and the March on Washington. Dr. King trusted his family’s safety with McDonald and she continued to work with Coretta after his assassination.




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