Julia Roberts is an actress, well known for performing a wide range of roles. Her acting abilities span a wide range of genres, including rom-coms, comedy-dramas, and biographies. Her diverse portfolio is impressive and her talent is undeniable. Julia Roberts has a lesser-known fact that will astound history buffs. Her parents were friends with civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
Julia Roberts spoke with Gayle King in September to discuss the role Martin Luther King Jr. played in her life. On a History Talks segment in Washington, D.C., the 55-year-old actress revealed an intriguing detail about her birth. The series features “premium live events,” which allow audiences to hear live recounts of historical figures’ experiences. She tells Gayle King an anecdote about her birth. Julia Roberts discusses how Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, assisted her parents.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and Civil Rights Activist. He was born in Tennessee in 1928 and is best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech. Throughout his life, King attended segregated public schools and eventually earned his Doctorate from Boston University in 1955. Martin Luther King Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35. He was recognized for his leadership abilities and desire for peace. King Jr. announced that his winnings would be donated to fight for equality between blacks and whites. He and Coretta had four children and were married for 15 years before his death in 1968.
The King family had helped pay Julia Roberts’ hospital bill a year before his death. Before Julia Roberts became famous, she was born in 1967 to Walter and Betty Lou Roberts. At the time, they lived in Smyrna, Georgia. Roberts described her hometown as “horribly racist” and a “living hell” in a 1990 interview with Rolling Stone. Her parents ran the Atlanta Actors and Writers Workshop. This is where and how they first made contact with the King family. Slavery was legal in the United States prior to 1865, and many blacks were mistreated by whites and slave owners. Segregation persisted for nearly 100 years after slavery was abolished in 1865.
Finally, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Despite the Civil Rights Act, many Southern states were still opposed to blacks being integrated into their schools and communities. “One day Coretta Scott King called my mother and asked if her kids could be part of the school because they were having trouble finding a place that would accept her kids,” Roberts tells Gayle, adding that the two families became friends after they met.
The Roberts family fought for equality in a time when dangers broke out. Some residents in these communities were opposed to Blacks being integrated into their communities. White people who supported integration faced danger as well. In fact, Philip DePoy was just 15 years old when he experienced a demonstration by one member of the KKK. This demonstration would put into perspective, for him, just how “demented” the KKK could be.
DePoy and Yolanda King were both members of the Actors and Writers Workshop, which was run by Roberts’ family. The Carver Homes housing project was hosting a free performance by the theatre. DePoy and King were required to kiss as part of their production. The pair were outside in the parking lot rehearsing their kiss when they were spotted by the “tangential” KKK member. He came back the next day to blow up a Buick in the same parking lot.
DePoy believes he intended to do more harm. He assumes the man was unable to do so because there were so many people around at the time. Julia Roberts has never stopped being an advocate of equality and stands by the notion that the Kings, “helped us out of a jam”.