The story of Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King covering the hospital expenses for Julia Roberts’ birth has been a revelation to many, but it was just a start of a connection between the actress and social causes.
The “Ticket to Paradise” star has long used her platform to advocate for philanthropic work and amplify the rights of people of color.
In 2020, Roberts shared a viral post on her verified Instagram calling out the “privilege as a white person” to do the things that Black people have come into contact with authorities over, including bird watching, playing loud music and or having a cell phone.
That shouldn’t be surprising to those who know the story of her parents’ friendship with the King family.
It was reported in a 2002 CNN interview that Walter and Betty Roberts ran a writing and actors workshop, where the King children were enrolled.
Theirs was the only integrated children’s theater group in Atlanta during the 1960s.
“Mr. Roberts was so imposing. I loved him but I was also a little intimidated by him, too,” Yolanda King told CNN. “And he taught me so much and – he and Mrs. Roberts – about the work and just about living and being really open, grabbing life and making the best of it.”
According to biographer Joyce Wagner, the workshop struggled and eventually closed.
But their daughter still developed a passion for acting and for speaking out for justice.
That has not always gone over well.
She was new to super stardom in 1990, thanks to the hit film “Pretty Woman,” when the Smyrna, Georgia, native angered the residents of Abbeville, South Carolina for reportedly referring to the town as “horribly racist” and a “living hell.”
According to an August 1990 article published by the Los Angeles Times, Roberts had been in the area to film the movie “Sleeping With the Enemy” and recounted to Rolling Stone Magazine an incident when she said her friend, who was Black, was denied service at an Abbeville restaurant.
Residents rallied to run an ad in Variety under the headline, “Pretty Woman? Pretty Low.”
“Are there racists here?” the ad read. “Perhaps some, as there are throughout the world. But they do not define us.”
Roberts released a statement at the time saying, “I was born in the South, so in no way am I trying to create a stereotype.”