Martin Luther King Jr. paid the hospital bill when Julia Roberts was born
The internet’s collective jaw hit the floor.
While countless people were moved, others questioned whether it was even true.
“Sounds like fake news” someone wrote in response to a tweet.
A few days later, however, it became clear that the kind deed of the Kings was far from a myth. On the occasion of Roberts’ birthday on October 28, Zara Rahimwho has a significant following on social media, he shared video clip on Twitter, in which Roberts confirms the story during an interview with TV personality Gayle King.
“Who paid the hospital bill the day you were born?” King asked Roberts during the course HISTORYTalksSeptember event in DC, hosted by the History Channel and A&E Networks.
“Her research is very good,” said a seemingly surprised Roberts.
Then Roberts gave the final answer: “The King family paid my hospital bill.”
“Not my family,” King replied, clarifying that Roberts was referring to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. “Why did they do that?”
“My parents couldn’t pay the hospital bill,” Roberts said.
She explained that her parents — Walter and Betty Roberts — owned a theater school in Atlanta called Workshop of actors and writersto whom they welcomed the children of the king.
“One day Coretta Scott King called my mother and asked if her children could be a part of the school, because they were having difficulty finding a place that would accept her children,” said Julia Roberts. “My mom said, ‘Sure, come.’ And that’s how everyone just became friends and helped us get out of the crowd.”
Bernice King, the youngest child of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, tweeted Sunday that she was grateful that the story got attention, “and that so many people are in awe of it. I know the story well, but it’s touching to be reminded of my parents’ generosity and influence.”
Although the story of Roberts’ hospital bill was not widely known until recently, stories about the two families and their friendship in the 1960s have been told before. Jim Crow law and segregation in the South.
A 2001 CNN interview with Julia Roberts, her mother and Yolanda King – the first-born child of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King – highlighted their relationship.
“It was an extended family, it really was. And all these black and white kids get along, no problem,” said Yolanda King.
A 2013 essay author from Georgia Phillip DePoy it also talks about family relationships — and how that led to turmoil and targeting. He described a story from 1965, when he—then a 15-year-old boy—was part of a play put on by Roberts’ theater group. In the play, which is based on the writer’s story Joel Chandler Harris, he and Yolanda King kissed, causing an uproar.
“I was primarily white and Yolanda was not,” wrote DePoy, who did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post. “That was the trouble.”
According to him, the kiss was witnessed by a “tangential member of the Ku Klux Klan”, who then blew up a vehicle parked nearby. “The officers who were watching the show just wandered over, talked to him, handcuffed him and took him away with very little energy.
In addition to chronicling the incident, DePoy also explained the impact the Roberts family had on those who attended their theater school — and on the Atlanta acting scene more broadly.
“Yolanda King spent the rest of her life in the theater; my brother, Scott DePoy, who joined the workshop before me, continues to work throughout the Southeast. Eric Roberts eventually went on to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London,” he wrote.
Just as the Roberts made an impact on the King family, so did the reverse.
Like her parents, Roberts has long been an advocate for racial justice. While filming “Sleeping with the Enemy” in the spring of 1990 in a small town in South Carolina, Roberts got into a heated argument with a local bar owner, who refused entry to a crew member because he was Black.
“I was furious, I was beside myself,” Roberts said 2001 interview with CNN.
Reacting to Roberts telling the story of the hospital bills, Gayle King said, “I think it’s remarkable and kind of sets the stage for what it is.”
“Oh, absolutely,” Roberts replied.
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