Yolanda King, the first child of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Corretta Scott King, was an actress, activist, and author.
She wrote and produced plays; gave speeches to groups that included elementary school children and Fortune 500 corporations; and acted in films and on television.
She portrayed Rosa Parks, who sparked the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, in a 1978 miniseries, King; and Betty Shabazz, the wife of Malcolm X, in Death of a Prophet in 1981.
In 1999, she acted in Selma, Lord, Selma, about the civil rights march, and in 1996 appeared in Ghosts of Mississippi, about efforts to track down the killer of Medgar Evers, the civil rights leader.
She founded a dramatic group with Atallah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, the slain civil rights leader, and started a theatrical production company, Higher Ground Productions, billed as a "gateway for inner peace, unity and global transformation." She was also on the board of the King Center, established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King.
Born in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, King was just an infant when her home was bombed during the turbulent civil rights era. Only 12 years old when her father was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, King pursued her father’s dream of racial harmony through drama and motivational speaking. She also held memberships in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—which her father cofounded in 1957—and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
She collapsed and died after making a speech in May 2007. She was 51.
Her death came less than a year and a half after her mother, Coretta Scott King, died in January 2006. Her struggle prompted her daughter to work with the American Heart Association to raise awareness about strokes, especially among blacks.