embrace boston

WATCH: ‘Embrace: The Kings'

A moving half-hour special about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, and the memorial being unveiled in Boston to honor their love and search for social justice. Produced in partnership with The Boston Globe.

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"The Embrace," a historic monument honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King, is about to be unveiled on Boston Common on Friday, Jan. 13.

It's been a long time coming, taking years of work spearheaded by the group Embrace Boston, a group dedicated to cultivating the conditions necessary for racial and economic justice in Boston.



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WATCH HERE: Embrace: The Kings, a special half-hour about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King's time in Boston as well as the unveiling of "The Embrace" memorial honoring King's love, and promising to change the conversation around social justice in Boston, the nation, and the world.

WATCH: The unveiling of The Embrace monument on Boston Common LIVE streaming here on NBCBoston.com and on Peacock on Friday, Jan. 13 from 12-3 p.m.

The monument is much more than the actual memorial and is purposely designed to be the flashpoint for changing the conversation around social justice in Boston and beyond.

Authorities involved with the project say The Embrace has the potential to become Boston's Statue of Liberty, a bronze beacon of hope.

Why Boston?

When you think of the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, you probably think of Atlanta or Washington, D.C.

But the famous couple that is the face of the civil rights movement in the 1960s actually met and fell in love in Boston while Dr. King was a Ph.D. student at Boston University, and Coretta was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music.

They came from very different backgrounds.

"Martin Luther King came from an African American elite class of people who very often were associated with the clergy," said filmmaker Roberto Mighty, "but Coretta came from literally a cotton-picking region of Alabama."

The Rev. Jeffrey Brown, a pastor at the Twelfth Baptist Church and a co-chair of Embrace Boston, said Coretta was like no one MLK had ever met.

"You had this stunningly beautiful woman who had this keen intellectual mind and this commitment to the social progress not only of African American people but for all people," he says.

You can also stream Embrace: The Kings on Peacock, Roku, and Globe.com

"History has shown us the important role that she played in really not just supporting Dr. King, but really playing an active role in helping to shape his work," adds Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP.

In fact, "She is a much more radical person, frankly, than he is," said historian Susan Reverby, adding, "she's the one who really pushed him politically in lots of ways."

The March

They did become political here in Boston.

Dr. King led a famous freedom march of more than 20,000 people from Roxbury to Boston Common in April 1965.

He spoke at the Parkman Bandstand on the Common and then spoke at the State House.

They focused on everything from jobs to housing equity, tentpole issues in the city today.

The Embrace

Because the Kings went to school here, fell in love here, and focused on activism in Boston, there has long been a push to honor the Kings in some way.

"Boston is a city of history. And oftentimes in our city, we look at sites and historical buildings as a part of our culture. And we are a city that hasn’t allowed different types of culture to thrive in the way that it should, considering the diversity of our city," said Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of Embrace Boston.

And part of that history is, undoubtedly, the Kings. "Their romance, their lives as students, their lives as community members in Roxbury, hasn't been told in a way that I think most Bostonians or folks who come and visit our city know about," Jeffries said.

And in 2017, a small group including Paul English, the Rev. Liz Walker, and Reverend Jeffrey Brown, had the idea of building a memorial to honor Dr. King. 

After a long process, the project was approved for a memorial on Boston Common, the oldest continuously operating park in the U.S.

Proposals went out and the winning design was by artist Hank Willis Thomas with The MASS Design Group.

Willis Thomas did a lot of research and saw a photo of not just Dr. King but of both of the Kings in an embrace after Dr. King won the Nobel Prize.

"And I saw the glee on his face first because we don't know him for being a gleeful person, but then I saw how tightly he was embracing his wife, but also how firmly she was holding him up. And I thought that was a really powerful metaphor for the way that she supported him during his life, but also the way she carried his legacy on her shoulders with such dignity and grace, that this idea of his weight on her shoulders was really powerful," Willis Thomas said.

It took 600 pieces of bronze to make the incredible work of art of the couple's embrace, two sets of shoulders intertwined.

"We worked with the fabricators in Walla Walla, Washington. These guys are the best at what they do at putting together world-class art at the scale," said Jonathan Evans, RA, principal at MASS Design Group.

WATCH: The unveiling of The Embrace monument on Boston Common LIVE streaming here on NBCBoston.com and on Peacock on Friday, Jan. 13 from 12-3 p.m.

The bronze was then trucked across the country to its forever home in Boston.

Also with the monument is a plaza of granite with the names of dozens of other civil rights leaders from Boston.

Visitors will be able to download an app and take an audio tour to hear the stories of Dr. King and Coretta's time in Boston, as well as other trailblazers in the city.

What It All Means

The groups involved in the monument know that this is just the beginning. Up next is The Embrace Center, which will include a center for social justice, coming later in 2023.

The City of Boston has always played a larger-than-life role in the direction of our country's history, and so we have visitors from all around the country and around the world," Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said.

She added, "What draws people to our city will begin to start to reflect a bit wider of who is included in that story of leadership, freedom, and pushing for the next generation."

"I think there's an opportunity for folks to see themselves not only directly through the diversity of the individuals also honored on the plaza, but to see themselves as being a part of a memorial dedicated to love and to see themselves through the eyes of other individuals that might not look like them. Because we're all Bostonians, we're all Americans, we're all citizens of this world. And that's the promise of The Embrace," Jeffries said.

Reading list:

To help children connect to age-appropriate reading on these topics, visit the Libby Life app.

"The Embrace" will soon honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, on Boston Common, but right now, it is being constructed about 2,500 miles away in Walla Walla, Washington.
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