The documentary is airing a day before the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial statue is unveiled on the Boston Common.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hugs his wife Coretta during a news conference following the announcement that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This photo was the inspiration for the new MLK Jr. memorial statue in the Boston Common called “The Embrace.” Bettmann

The new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial statue is finally being unveiled on the Boston Common this week.

To mark the occasion, The Boston Globe and NBC 10 Boston have teamed up to create a new documentary about King, his wife Coretta Scott King, and their time in Boston.

Though the couple’s impact on Boston is not as well known as their work in the South, not only did the couple advocate for civil rights here, but they met and fell in love in Boston while they were attending separate colleges.

The giant bronze statue, called “The Embrace,” shows the hands and arms of the Kings in a hug. It’s the culmination of years of work by Embrace Boston, a racial and economic justice activist group.

The group hopes the statue will not only serve as a memorial to the Kings, but also as a symbol of justice, equity, and Boston’s diversity.

The Kings’ activism and romance in Boston

King moved to Boston in 1951 to earn his doctorate in theology from Boston University. While studying there, he worked as a minister at Roxbury’s historic Twelfth Baptist Church.

According to Boston University’s magazine, Bostonia, King is known to have lived at many different addresses in the city. Most of these homes were brownstones near or on Mass Ave in the South End.

“When he needed a break from his graduate studies, King often wandered over to the William E. Carter Playground in the South End to play pickup basketball,” the magazine wrote.

Another Boston location important to King’s story was Sharaf’s, a chain restaurant where he had his first date with Coretta. The restaurant was — conveniently for him — also on Mass Ave.

Coretta, who studied voice at the New England Conservatory of Music, told the Globe in 2006 that the two “met” over the phone.

“He said, ‘I like the way you talk, and I’d like to meet you,’” she recounted to the newspaper. ”We agreed to meet for lunch the next day at Sharaf’s on Massachusetts Avenue, and he said, ‘I usually make it in 10 minutes, but tomorrow, I’ll make it in 7.’”

Coretta went on to describe their first date.

”On our first date, he deliberately asked a question that had to do with capitalism versus communism…I remember I made an intelligent comment, and he said, ‘Oh, I see you know something other than music.’ I thought, ‘Of course I did. I was a graduate of Antioch College. I had thoughts of my own,’” she said.

“And then, at the end of the first date, he said, ‘You know, you have everything I ever wanted in a wife: intelligence, character, beauty, and personality. When can I see you again?’ I said I really didn’t know because I had a tight schedule.”

Their courtship lasted a year and four months, the civil rights leader told the Globe, but she struggled with the decision to get married. King wanted to tie the knot quickly, but Coretta knew it would change the direction of her career as a performer.

”We got married in 1953, and the rest is history,” she said. ”When I finally opened myself to the relationship, I knew this was my direction.”

After finishing his degree, King returned to Boston on many occasions. His most famous visit was in April 1965.

On April 22, 1965, King spoke during a joint legislative session at the Massachusetts State House on civil rights, speaking passionately about school desegregation.

The next day, King led a freedom march of more than 20,000 people from Roxbury down Columbus Avenue to the Boston Common. The march started at the Patrick T. Campbell Middle School, which has since been renamed the Martin Luther King Jr. K-8 School.

For more information on the Kings’ time in Boston, tune into the new 30-minute documentary, called “Embrace: The Kings,” which will air at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12 on NBC 10 Boston, Peacock, and Globe.com.

Commemorating the Kings’ impact on Boston

According to NBC 10 Boston, there’s long been an impetus to memorialize the Kings’ time in Boston.

“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,” Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of Embrace Boston, told the news station.

“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.” 

The effort to create the statue began in 2017, and has progressed over the last several years as educators, artists, and citizens worked to select a design for the memorial, Embrace Boston said in a news release. The final design was created by conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group.

The sculpture is about 38,000 pounds, 20 feet high, 40 feet wide, and is made up of 609 individual bronze pieces, Embrace Boston said. It was built at the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington before traveling nearly 3,000 miles to Boston.

The statue is situated in the new 1965 Freedom Plaza, a granite structure with benches honoring 69 local civil rights leaders who were active between 1950 and 1970, Embrace Boston said.

The plaza and statue will be the first new installment in the Boston Common in over 30 years.

‘The Embrace,’ a 22-foot bronze sculpture created by artist Hank Willis Thomas, honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King. It will be dedicated on Friday, January 13, 2023. – (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)

“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,” Jeffries told NBC 10 Boston.

“Because we’re all Bostonians, we’re all Americans, we’re all citizens of this world. And that’s the promise of ‘The Embrace.’”

You can watch the statue’s unveiling live on Friday, Jan. 13 at noon on NBCBoston.com and on Peacock.


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