Last week, Zara Rahim, a social media influencer, resurfaced a video interview featuring Julia Roberts with Gayle King, where she reveals that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Jr. covered her parents’ hospital bill for her birth.
“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…” she tweeted.
This sent the internet into a flurry of fact-checking, fake news accusations and the ultimate realization that, in fact, it’s the truth. Rahim had responded to a mid-October Tweet by @turnandstomp, resurfacing the fact, which now has 102.8K likes. Roberts even commented on Gayle’s research skills in her video interview, a part of HISTORYtalks in September 2022. Here’s what happened.
Coretta had asked Robert’s parents, Walter and Betty, if her children could be part of a theater school in Atlanta, as she had trouble finding her kids a spot that would accept them, Roberts explained in the interview. When Roberts’ parents accepted the King children to the school, they formed a bond. When the Roberts couldn’t cover the cost of their daughter Julia’s birth, the King family stepped in.
Rahim’s tweet gathered quite the reactions from fans, from astonishment to dismay, criticism to praise for both families. One fan wrote, “100% my brain broke.” Another says, “This is incredible! I’ve never heard this story.” But some fans were more critical, pointing to the potential incongruency that a family who owns a whole school couldn’t pay for their child’s birth, with others coming to their defense that owning a school doesn’t mean you have money. Another commented “Very cringe that they took money from a Black family who didn’t even have jobs and relied on donations because they were doing movement work. I hope the family supported the civil rights movement in some way.” But Gayle had more praise than some fans, commending Robert’s family.
“They helped us out of a jam,” Roberts says, to which Gayle replies, “In the ’60s you didn’t have little Black children interacting with little white kids in acting school, and your parents were like, ‘Come on in.’” Gayle adds that it “lays the groundwork for who you are.”
The Tweet also caught the attention of Bernice King, the family’s youngest child, to which she Tweeted: “Grateful that #JuliaRoberts shared this story with @GayleKing and that so many people have been awed by it. I know the story well, but it is moving for me to be reminded of my parents’ generosity and influence. #CorettaScottKing #MLK.”
The resurfaced little-known fact also points to the lack of progress we’ve made in the last 55 years on making birth accessible to all. The average cost of childbirth in the U.S. still soars above other countries, at $13,811 for someone with employer-sponsored insurance, though out-of-pocket expenses are more likely to be lower, depending on your plan and location.
The King family paying for this expense during a family’s vulnerable time of need speaks volumes, again, to the character we’ve always learned they have. What an amazing story!