Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an iconic day for freedom and liberties in America.
King lived from 1929 -1968 and was a Baptist minister and social activist who played an important role in the American civil rights movement from the mid 1950s until he was assassinated in 1968. King was also a Nobel Prize Peace winner in 1964. Check out these other interesting facts about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
11. King’s birth name was not Martin.
The civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. After traveling to Germany in 1934, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. It was then that King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.
22. At age 12, King seems to have tried to commit suicide.
In May of 1941 when his grandmother passed away after a heart attack. At the time of this event, King Jr. was at a parade which his parents had told him not to go to, but he went anyway. When he came home and learned that his grandmother had passed, he went upstairs and jumped from the second story window of his house.
33. King received a doctorate in systematic theology.
King attended graduate school at Boston University, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1955. Prior to that King earned a divinity degree from Pennsylvania’s Crozer Theological Seminary. “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.” was the title of his dissertation.
44. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was not his first at the Lincoln Memorial.
King positioned himself at the forefront of civil rights leadership on May 17, 1957 where he spoke during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom. In his first national address he spoke before a crowd estimated between 15,000 and 30,000 on the topics of voting rights where in his speech he urged America to “give us the ballot”. This was six years before his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
55. King was put in jail 29 times.
Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail almost 30 times according to the King Center. Some of the charges included acts of civil disobedience and one time in 1956 he was jailed in Montgomery Alabama for driving 30 mph in a 25 mph zone.
66. King barely escaped an assassination attempt a decade before his death.
On September 20, 1958 during a signing of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” King was approached by Izola Ware Curry in a department store called Blumstein’s. Curry a female then asked Martin Luther King for his identity. After he verified she told him, “I’ve been looking for you for five years,” and then stabbed King in the chest with a seven inch letter opener. Luckily the blade barely missed his aorta and after hours of delicate emergency surgery King survived. King issued a statement after from his hospital bed stating he felt no ill will towards the attacker who he felt was mentally ill.
77. King’s last public speech predicted his death.
After arriving to Memphis in April of 1968 to support the city’s black garbage workers strike and from a speech on the night before his assassination King told the audience at Mason Temple Church: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now… I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
88. King’s family did not believe James Earl Ray acted alone.
The man who shot King, James Earl Ray pled guilty to King’s assassination but later recanted. In 1997 King’s son Dexter met with Ray publicly and argued for the case to be reopened. It was the belief of King’s widow Coretta that Mafia, local, state and federal government were involved in the murder. In 1999 a Memphis jury decided the assassination was the result of a conspiracy that James Earl Ray was set up to take the blame for which Coretta praised. In 2000 a U.S. Department of Justice investigation released a report stating there was no evidence of a conspiracy.
99. King’s mother was also killed by a bullet.
King’s mother died steps away from where her son preached nonviolence. Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. shot King’s mother who was 69 from the front pew of Ebenezer Baptist Church during Sunday service with two pistols on June 30, 1974. The gunmen stated that Christians were his enemy. Although he said he’d received divine instructions to kill King’s father who was also in attendance, he shot his mother instead because she was closer. During the shooting a church deacon was also killed. Chenault received life in prison since the King family opposed capital punishment.
1010. George Washington and King are the only two Americans to have their birthday observed as national holidays.
A federal bill was signed into effect in 1983 by Ronald Reagan to honor Martin Luther King Jr. The holiday is celebrated on the third Monday in January close to King’s birthday and was first commemorated in 1986.