Author: Sherry Helms
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
An apostle of peace and a preacher of universal love, harmony and brotherhood- Martin Luther King Jr. is an iconic figure in the U.S. history whose mission in life was to serve others. One of the greatest orators in the history of America, King was a charismatic figure who both amazed and uplifted people by his clear sense of purpose, his commitment to social transform and the brilliance of his insights. For his non-violent movements to eradicate racial prejudices and segregations in America, he was awarded with the Noble Peace Prize in 1964.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15th, 1929, Martin would not bow his head in apathy and, with his outstanding efforts, gave hope to the poor and strengthened the lives of millions of mistreated and downtrodden people. US Civil rights leader, Dr. King also authored many books, including Why We Can’t Wait, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, The Measure of a Man, I Have a Dream Writings and Speeches That Changed the World, and many more.
There’s no doubt that most of us are pretty familiar with his civil rights movement and his eloquent oratory skills, but there are indeed some facts that have slipped under the radar. In honor of a great man and leader, we have dug up some interesting and lesser-known facts about the legendary icon that you probably may not be aware of.
1. King’s Birth Name Was Michael, Not Martin.
The original name of this civil rights leader was “Michael King, Jr.” In 1931, when his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany, he changed his name to Martin Luther in homage to the German Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther as well as that of his 5-year-old son. But no records documenting a formal name change and hence until his death he officially remained Michael King, Jr.
2. Martin Skipped the 9th and 12th grades
Martin Luther King, Jr. was such a bright student that he skipped both the ninth and the twelfth grades and entered Morehouse College at the tender age of 15. By the age of 19, he graduated college with a degree in sociology. King also received a divinity degree from Pennsylvania’s Crozer Theological seminary and earned his Ph.D. degree in 1955 from Boston University. The title of his theses was “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.”
3. King Was Jailed 29 Times
According to the King Center, King was arrested and sent to prison nearly 30 times over the course of his life. Most of the reasons he was arrested were for acts of civil disobedience. In 1963, he was taken to jail in the consequence of the Birmingham confrontation with the municipal authorities. He wrote a prose, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that ranks among most important American documents written. He was also ridiculously jailed for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956.
4. The Youngest Person To Receive Noble Prize
King won a Noble Peace Prize at the age of 35. In 1964 when he received the Noble Prize, he was the youngest overall for the Peace Prize. He earned $54,123 (about $400,000 today) for his Noble Peace Prize but donated all his money to the Civil Rights movement. Moreover, he was the first African American to be named Man of the Year by Time Magazine in 1963.
5. King Was Nearly Assassinated A Decade Before His Death
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated by James Earl Ray but it was not the first assassination attempt. While King was on a book tour in Blumstein’s department store, signing copies of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” on September 20, 1958, he was approached by a black woman, Izola Ware Curry. The woman asked him if he was Martin Luther King Jr., which he obviously replied yes. After he gave affirmative answer, she said, “I have been looking for you for five years,” and then pulled out a seven-inch steel letter opener and stabbed him in his chest. The sharp point end of the blade came on the edge of his aorta, and King underwent hours of emergency chest surgery.
6. King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech on the Steps of The Lincoln Memorial Was Not His First.
Martin Luther King’s speech, “I Have a Dream” on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial was considered as one of the finest addresses ever delivered to a public audience. About 250,000 people attended and listened to his immortal speech. Although this outstanding speech was not King’s first at Lincoln Memorial. His first national address was delivered on the topic of voting rights at the monument.
7. There are Over 1,000 streets Around the World Named After Him
You might not know that there are more than 1,000 streets named after Martin Luther King, Jr. all over the world so far. Presently, over 730 streets have named after king can be found in nearly every major city in America.
8. MLK Is the Only Non-President With A National Holiday In His Honor
To date, there are George Washington and Christopher Columbus are the only other two people in American history that have national holidays honoring them. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the only non-president native-born United States citizen to have had his birthday observed as a federal holiday. In 1983, Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday as a national holiday was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Each year MLK day, first commemorated in 1986, is celebrated on the third Monday in January, close to the King’s birthday, January 15.
9. King’s Last Words
According to Jesse Jackson, who was also present at the assassination, Martin Luther King Jr.’s last words were:”Ben, make sure you play: Take My Hand, Precious Lord in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.” to musician Ben Branch, who would be playing at Dr. King’s speech that night. On the day King was assassinated, he was out on the balcony for a smoke. Later, the last words spoken by him became his last wish as at his funeral, his good friend Mahaila Jackson sang the same hymn for him.
10. King’s Heart was 20 Year Older Than Him
Martin’s autopsy results revealed that although he was only thirty-nine at the time of his death, he had the heart of a sixty-year-old man. It can be assumed that it was a consequence of the lot of stress he was gone through during thirteen years of civil rights movement. King once himself had verbally predicted that he would not live to see forty.