Julia Roberts has revealed her special connection with Martin Luther King Jr., telling Gayle King (no relation) at a recent HISTORYTalks event that the late civil rights activist and his wife, Coretta Scott King, paid the hospital bill after she was born.
“The King family paid for my hospital bill… Martin Luther King and Coretta,” Roberts said at the late September event held in Washington, DC. “My parents had a theater school in Atlanta called the Actors and Writers Workshop, and one day Coretta Scott King called my mother and asked if her kids could be part of the school because they were having a hard time finding a place that would accept their kids. And my mom was like, ‘Sure, come on over.’ And they all became friends, and they helped us out of a jam.”
Gayle King responded by praising the Roberts family for their role in integrating the Atlanta theater scene, saying, “In the ’60s, you didn’t have little Black children interacting with little white kids in acting school. And Julia’s parents were welcoming, and I think that’s extraordinary, and it lays the groundwork for who Julia is.”
Watch a clip of Roberts’ interview with Gayle King below.
Though Julia Roberts’ parents were welcoming of the King children, others were not: a Ku Klux Klan member committed an act of terrorism in response to seeing eldest daughter Yolanda King kiss a white actor, Philip DePoy, as part of a play.
“I kissed a girl, and 10 yards away a Buick exploded,” DePoy wrote in a 2013 essay published in ArtsATL. “The girl was Yolanda King, daughter of Coretta and Martin Luther King Jr. I was primarily Caucasian and Yolanda wasn’t. That’s what the trouble was about.”
Early in Roberts’ career, the actor received backlash for speaking up about racial injustice in response to her experience with filming Sleeping with the Enemy in Abbeville, South Carolina. In a 1990 interview with Rolling Stone (via the Los Angeles Times), Roberts’ called the town “horribly racist” and a “living hell” before later clarifying she was speaking about a specific incident in which a Black friend was refused service at a restaurant.
“I was shocked that this type of treatment still exists in America in the ’90s — in the South or anywhere else,” she later told the Anderson Independent-Mail.
Today is Julia Roberts birthday! 55 years ago MLK and Coretta Scott King paid for her parents hospital bill after she was born. Can’t stop thinking about this since I read it. Here she is talking about it with @GayleKing https://t.co/5HvpNSUIYb pic.twitter.com/147x6d807W
— Zara Rahim (@ZaraRahim) October 28, 2022