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10 Interesting Facts about Martin Luther King Jr.

[Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann in a crowd.], 8/28/1963" Original black and white negative by Rowland Scherman. Taken August 28th, 1963, Washington D.C, United States (The National Archives and Records Administration). Colorized by Jordan J. Lloyd.
Martin Luther King Jr. in a crowd, 28th August 1963.
Credit: Unseen Histories // Unsplash License

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most celebrated civil rights leaders in American history. His work and dedication to fighting for equality have inspired millions of people, and his legacy will continue to live on for many years to come. Here are ten interesting facts about this remarkable man you may not have known!

Martin Luther King’s Early Life

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15th, 1929. His siblings were both critical in his life. Martin had an older sister called Willie Christine and a younger brother named Alfred Daniel Williams. He attended a segregated school and was often forced to sit in the back of the bus or use separate water fountains and restrooms. King graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology. After college, he enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. King became a pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1954. After that, King became involved in the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. Was Originally Named Michael

Martin Luther King Jr. has been a well-known figure in American history for decades, but you might not know his real name is Michael. His father changed his name after a trip to Germany, where he was inspired by Martin Luther, a 16th-century theologian. Martin Luther was a German theologian who initiated the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther is famous for his efforts to reform the Catholic Church and bring it back into line with what he believed. His campaigns against corruption, such as selling indulgences, show how much God meant for people’s salvation.

Martin Luther King Jr. Won Nobel Peace Prize in 1964

Martin Luther King, Jr. showing his medallion received from Mayor Wagner
Martin Luther King Jr. holding a medallion (not the Nobel Peace Prize) presented to him by Mayor Wagner, 1964.
Credit: Picryl // Public Domain

 Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his non-violent struggle against racial discrimination and oppression a few years before his assassination. He was the youngest person to receive the prize at that time. Martin Luther King Jr. donated the Nobel prize money, valued at $54,678, to help bring racial equality to America.

MLK Jr. Is Famous For His “I Have a Dream” Speech

Dr. Martin Luther King giving his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963.
Martin Luther King Jr. delivering the “I Have a Dream” speech, 1963.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Martin Luther King Jr. gave the speech on August 28th, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The address was part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a rally for civil rights and racial equality. The speech lasted just over 17 minutes and was broadcast on radio and television. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is considered one of the greatest speeches in American history. He called for an end to racism and equality for all Americans. Martin Luther King Jr. apparently improvised parts of his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. He was initially supposed to give a very different address that day, but he changed it at the last minute after seeing the enthusiastic response from the crowd. The speech helped to galvanize the Civil Rights movement and is still remembered today.

Martin Luther King Was Assassinated By a White Supremacist

Mug shot of James Earl Ray taken on July 8 1955.
James Earl Ray Mugshot, 1955.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, 1968. He was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The man who killed Martin Luther King Jr. was James Earl Ray. Ray was a white supremacist and member of the Ku Klux Klan. He was convicted of King’s murder and sentenced to 99 years in prison. King’s funeral was held on April 9th, 1968, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. More than 125,000 people attended the service, which was broadcast on national television. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death profoundly impacted American society and led to increased racial tensions and violence. King’s legacy lives on, and he is considered one of the most influential figures in American history.

MLK Has His Own Holiday

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the United States that celebrates the life and accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr., an important figure in American history. It was first celebrated in 1986, and is observed on the third Monday of January each year, and is considered to be a day of service. Many Americans use Martin Luther King Jr. Day to volunteer and give back to their community.

Martin Luther King Jr. Started College at 15 Years Old

Martin Luther King press conference / [MST]." Original black and white negative by Marion S. Trikosko. Taken August 26th, 1964, Washington D.C, United States Colorized by Jordan J. Lloyd.
Martin Luther King Jr., 1964.
Credit: Unseen Histories // Unsplash License

MLK started his education at just 15 years old and was already a published author by the time he was 19 years old! When you’re a 15-year-old student, finding the right balance between life outside of school and your studies can be challenging. But this wasn’t an issue for King as he entered college at such young age with one goal: to succeed! He was an intelligent and talented man who used his gifts to fight for equality and justice.

MLK Jr.’s First Job Was Selling Newspaper

Martin Luther King Jr.’s first job was selling newspapers on the street corner. Also, when he was 13 years old, he became the youngest assistant manager in the Atlanta Journal delivery station’s history. His work ethic allowed him to get ahead of other applicants and make it happen for himself despite his age.

Martin Luther King Was Arrested Nearly 30 Times

Martin Luther King Jr standing behind Rosa Parks in 1955
Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, 1955.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested nearly 30 times during the civil rights movement. He was arrested for acts of civil disobedience. However, one man’s arrest for acts of civil disobedience is another person’s invitation to be part of a protest.  Martin Luther King’s most famous arrest was for leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a seminal event in the civil rights movement. It began on December 5th, 1955, after Rosa Parks, an African American woman, was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person. The boycott lasted 381 days and ended when the Supreme Court declared bus segregation unconstitutional. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a crucial event in the civil rights movement and helped increase racial equality in America.

Henry David Thoreau Had a Profound Impact on Martin Luther King Jr.

Portrait photograph from a ninth-plate daguerreotype of Henry David Thoreau. Calvin R. Greene was a Thoreau “disciple” who lived in Rochester, Michigan, and who first began corresponding with Thoreau in January 1856. When Greene asked for a photographic image of the author, Thoreau initially replied: “You may rely on it that you have the best of me in my books, and that I am not worth seeing personally – the stuttering, blundering, clodhopper that I am.” Yet Greene repeated his request and sent money for the sitting. Thoreau must have kept this commitment to his fan in the back of his mind for the next several months. On June 18, 1856, during a trip to Worcester, Massachusetts, Henry Thoreau visited the Daguerrean Palace of Benjamin D. Maxham at 16 Harrington Corner and had three daguerreotypes taken for fifty cents each. He gave two of the prints to his Worcester friends and hosts, H.G.O. Blake and Theophilius Brown. The third he sent to Calvin Greene in Michigan. “While in Worcester this week I obtained the accompanying daguerreotype – which my friends think is pretty good – though better looking than I,” Thoreau wrote.
Henry David Thoreau, 1856.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts, on July 12th, 1817. He was an American author, poet, and philosopher best known for his book Walden, which advocates civil disobedience. In 1849, Thoreau was arrested for refusing to pay taxes to protest the Mexican-American War and the Fugitive Slave Act. He spent a night in jail, which inspired his essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” Thoreau’s essay influenced many people, including Martin Luther King Jr. King quoted from “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. are both renowned for their work in the area of civil disobedience. They both believed that people have a duty to stand up for their beliefs, even if it means breaking the law.

Martin Luther King Jr. was an amazing man with a powerful message that still resonates today. Even 50 years after his death, Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and actions continue to have a profound impact on people all over the world. As we celebrate his life and legacy, let’s remember what he stood for and continue working towards peace and equality for all. What are your thoughts on MLK Jr.?

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