In 1971, people who worked with Dr. King and SCLC staff picketed a fundraising concert for the King Center because it refused to share proceeds with the civil rights organization founded by Dr. King.
With very little money coming in from the three million visitors who visit the King Center annually, the corporate gifts and government grants began to force the Center to shed even the pretense of challenging that selfsame system to provide social justice. Corporations and federal agencies financed the start-up and first few years of operation of the King Center. I suppose it was simple economics. Who else would fund the center? Poor people? And who would the center then be required to represent? Poor people?
The perceived elitism of the King Center and its notorious lack of contact with low-income Atlanta caused so much bad blood that Dr. King’s organization, the SCLC, organized a march of the city workers union, domestic workers union and Atlanta’s welfare rights chapter to demonstrate against Mrs. King’s leadership on Jan. 14, 1979.
Nearly 300 persons gathered in the bitter cold to sing “Ain’t Gonna Let Coretta Turn Us Round” as Mrs. King presented President Jimmy Carter with the Nonviolent Peace Prize for that year.
For years, there was no formal SCLC presence at the Jan. 15 observance. That was Coretta’s show. SCLC instead chose the date of Dr. King’s assassination, April 4, for its annual memorial.