Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts, one of the world's most successful and acclaimed movie stars, recently celebrated her 55th birthday. As often happens online, this occasion prompted an old story about Roberts to go viral. To the surprise of many, the story involves not only Julia Roberts but also civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
In the 1960s, Julia Roberts' parents ran a theater school called the Actors and Writers Workshop in Atlanta, Georgia. Coretta Scott King had reached out to the Roberts family, hoping to enroll her children in their school – the only integrated theater group in Atlanta. Walter and Betty Roberts gladly accepted the Kings' children as pupils, sparking a friendship between the two families.
In October 1967, when Betty Roberts gave birth to Julia Fiona Roberts in Smyrna, Georgia, the King family was in a position to help the Roberts family, who were struggling financially. Their magnanimous gesture was to pay the hospital bill for Julia's birth, forever linking two well-known American icons in a shared moment of history. Tragically, less than six months later, Martin Luther King Jr. would be assassinated.
A tale of two families:
- In a 2001 interview with CNN, Yolanda King, the eldest child of Coretta and Martin Luther King, recalled how much she had learned from attending the Roberts' school, and how the children had all gotten along, regardless of the color of their skin.
- The story has circulated online before but was most recently addressed by Julia Roberts during an interview with Gayle King (no relation to MLK) earlier this year.
- Unfortunately, the Roberts' theater school was never financially successful. Walter and Betty divorced not long after the studio shut down.