Martin Luther King Jr. was the most important person in the civil rights movement in the United States. On Monday, the US pays tribute to him. In 1983, his family and activists worked hard to get the day set aside as a national holiday. Since then, it has been celebrated on the third Monday of every January.
It’s a time to think about King’s life and work. He pushed for nonviolent resistance in the fight for civil rights. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, led a march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., to demand voting rights for Black people, and in 1963, when he gave him “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall, it was attended by more than a quarter-million people.
King was also the target of an FBI surveillance and disinformation campaign, and he was killed at the age of 39 in 1968. His achievements are remembered in cities all over the world, and his story is well known. But here are some facts about his life that are less well-known.
Martin Wasn’t His Real Name!
Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929, and was given the name Michael. Martin Luther King Sr’s name was also Michael, and he was a pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. But in 1934, he took a trip to Germany that changed his mind. In 1517, a monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg castle church, starting the Protestant Reformation.
Early on in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Sr. moved back to the United States and quickly changed his and his son’s names. Martin was about 5 years old at the time.
King Jr. changed his birth certificate when he was 28 years old. In 1957, he crossed out Michael and wrote “Martin Luther, Jr.” in black ink where Michael had been.
He Skipped Grades and Started College At Age 15!
King was so smart that he skipped at least two grades and graduated from Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High School Before He Was Accepted To Nearby Morehouse College, a school for Black men that his father and grandfather also went to.
“College was a very exciting time for me. “There was freedom at Morehouse, and that’s where I had my first honest talk about race,” He Wrote in His Autobiography years later.
In 1948, when King was 19, he finished college and went to Crozer Theological Seminary, where he became a Baptist minister and was ordained. He then went on to study systematic theology and Got a Ph.D. From Boston University. King later got a lot of Honorary Degrees from universities all over the world.
In 1947, he wrote in a student newspaper, “Education must teach people how to sort and weigh evidence, to tell the truth from the lie, the real from the fake, and the facts from the fiction.”
He Got a C in Public Speaking!
Martin Luther King, Jr. received two Cs in public speaking. Actually went from a C+ to a C the next term. Here’s the transcript. Live your dream. pic.twitter.com/mAoFIwaICw
— Sarah Elizabeth Lewis (@sarahelizalewis) January 12, 2020
When he was studying to become a minister, King had trouble giving speeches and got a C in public speaking. Later, he became known as a great speaker.
He Played Tricks As A Child!
When he was young, King liked to get into trouble. He put his mother’s fox furs on a stick and rustled the bushes to scare people walking down the street. He also tried to get rid of his piano teacher by making the stool fall over, and he would sometimes break the doll heads of his older sister’s dolls to use as baseballs.
King May Have Made Up The “I Have a Dream” Line in His Speech On The Spot!
During the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, one of the most important speeches in history was given in less than 18 minutes.
But when King wrote the speech, he didn’t include the famous refrain: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
During the speech, Mahalia Jackson, an American gospel singer, yelled out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” This prompted King to use the now-famous phrase, which he had used in other speeches.
His Family Paid Julia Roberts’s Birth Expenses!
When the actress was born in Smyrna, Georgia, 55 years ago, King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, paid her parents’ hospital bills. The story didn’t become public until last year when Roberts confirmed it in an interview with TV host Gayle King.
“Who paid the hospital bill the day you were born?” During HistoryTalks, a September event in D.C. put on by the History Channel and A&E Networks, King asked Roberts this question. Roberts said, “The King family paid for my hospital bill.” The hospital bill was too much for my parents to pay.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) October 31, 2022
“One day, Coretta Scott King called my mother and asked if her kids could go to the school because it was hard to find a place that would take them,” Roberts said. “My mom said, ‘Sure, come on over,'” he said. So they all became friends, and when we were in trouble, they helped us out.”
People on the internet were shocked by what she said, and King’s youngest child, Bernice King, praised her.
Another Attempt To Kill Him Happened a Decade Before He Was Killed!
In 1958, King was signing books at Blumstein’s Department Store in Harlem when a well-dressed woman with glasses stepped out of line and asked, “Is this Martin Luther King?”
King was 29 years old at the time. He looked up from signing copies of his book about the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and said, “Yes, it is.”
The woman then took a letter opener with an ivory handle out of her purse and attacked King. According to the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, she stuck a seven-inch blade into the left side of his chest.
King was taken to the hospital quickly to have surgery. Doctors told him later that the blade, which was stuck near his aorta, could have killed him if he had sneezed. Izola Ware Curry, the black daughter of sharecroppers, was the person who attacked King. Later, King called her a “crazy woman.”
Ten years later, in 1968, he was shot and killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
His Mother Was Also Murdered!
His mother, Alberta Williams King, was also killed just six years after he was killed. She was killed in 1974 while playing the organ at a service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Marcus Wayne Chenault, a young man from Ohio, shot her. He said he was aiming for Martin Luther King Sr., who was also at the church.
King often talked about how his mother helped him grow up, and he often called her “the best mother in the world.”
He Also Won a Grammy in Addition To The Nobel Peace Prize!
In 1971, after his death, King Was Given a Grammy Music Award. He won best-spoken word recording for a speech he gave in New York called “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.” He gave this speech a year before he was killed to protest the war.
King had been nominated for a Grammy twice before, for his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1969 and his “We Shall Overcome” speech in 1964.