In a recent conversation with CBS News reporter Gayle King for the History Channel, actor Julia Roberts revealed that late civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, who were close friends of her parents, paid the hospital bill for her birth.
“The King family paid for my hospital bill… Martin Luther King and Coretta,” Roberts told Gayle King, according to Insider.
The conversation from late September, which was part of a series called “HISTORYTalks” held in Washington, D.C., went viral Friday when Zara Rahim, a former strategic adviser to President Barack Obama, tweeted the interview clip to celebrate the actor’s 55th birthday.
“One day Coretta 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 her kids,” Roberts told King. “My mom was like, ‘Sure, come on over,’ and so they all just became friends.”
Roberts said her parents, Walter and Betty Lou Roberts, ran the Actors and Writers Workshop in Atlanta before she was born in 1967. Segregation kept the civil rights leader’s daughters from attending white schools — and even their entry in a theater school sparked violence.
The Ku Klux Klan blew up a car outside the school after Yolanda, the eldest King daughter, was cast in a play in which she kissed Philip DePoy, a white actor, who chronicled the terrifying incident of domestic terrorism in an essay for ARTS ATL in 2013.
“I kissed a girl, and 10 yards away, a Buick exploded,” wrote DePoy. “… 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. I don’t know who owned the Buick, but I know who blew it up.”
Roberts said the Kings “helped us out of a jam” when her parents couldn’t afford to pay the hospital bill for her birth on Oct. 28, 1967, in Smyrna, Georgia. She never stopped being vocal about racial injustice and told Rolling Stone in 1990 that her town was “horribly racist” and a “living hell,” according to The New York Times.
“In the ’60s, you didn’t have little Black children interacting with little white kids in an acting school, and your parents were like, ‘Come on in,’” King marveled in response to Roberts’ story. “I think that’s extraordinary, and it sort of lays the groundwork for who you are.”