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You know MLK Jr., but do you know these 10 facts?

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was a Baptist minister and social activist who played a major role in the civil rights movement of America in mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. He continues to inspire people even to this day. Check out these 10 lesser known facts about Martin Luther King Jr. in honor of his birthday.

1. King’s birth name was Michael.

The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, his father traveled to Germany and was inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name and his son.

2. King enrolled in college at the age of 15.

King skipped grades 9th and 12th, so he graduated high school in 1944. He enrolled in July 1944 at Morehouse College and graduated four years later with a degree in sociology.

3. He almost became another kind of doctor – the medical kind!.

After graduating from college, he had doubts about following in the footstep of his family and becoming a minister. At the time, he was considering becoming a medical doctor or a lawyer. Due to a religious epiphany, he later chose to become a minister, entered seminary at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and graduated with his Ph.D. at the age of 25.

4. “I Have a Dream” was not his first speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

Six years before his March on Washington, he spoke during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom on May 17, 1957. King delivered his first national address about voting rights to an estimated crowd of 30,000. This speech positioned him as the prominent thought leader of the civil rights movement.

5. King was jailed 30 times.

According to the King Center, the civil rights leader went to jail 30 times. He was arrested for acts of civil disobedience and on fabricated charges. He once was arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, and jailed in Montgomery, Alabama, for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone.

6. King’s last public speech is said to have foretold his death.

In a speech on the night before his assassination, King told an audience at Mason Temple Church in Memphis,Tennessee: “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.”

7. Martin Luther King Jr. was almost assassinated another time before his death.

While on a book tour at Stride Toward Freedom in September 1958, King was approached by Izola Ware Curry, who asked him if he was Martin Luther King Jr. She told him, “I’ve been looking for you for five years.” She then pulled out a letter opener and stabbed him in the chest according to the newspaper.

8. King won a Nobel Peace Prize.

King is the youngest male to win a Nobel Peace Prize, winning it in 1964 at the age of 35 (Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize, at the age of 17 in 2014).

9. King donated all the money he received for his Nobel Peace Prize

During his acceptance speech, he stated “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” King donated the $54,123 (about $400,000 today) prize money to the Civil Rights movement.

10. George Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. are the only two Americans to have their birthday observed as a national holiday.

In 1983, a bill was passed to create a federal holiday to honor King. Since then, the holiday has been celebrated annually on the third Monday in January. It wasn’t until 2000 that all 50 states officially observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The last states to do so were, Arizona (1992), New Hampshire (1999), and Utah (2000).


The freedoms granted to you shouldn’t be violated, but if they are, a civil rights lawyer can help put things right. A civil rights lawyer can help you if you’ve been mistreated based on characteristics such as race, religion, gender or disability. Some common cases of civil rights violations include:

  • Unreasonable searches and seizures
  • Cruel and unusual punishment
  • Losing a job or being passed over for a promotion due to discrimination
  • Abuse by a public official
  • Any discrimination based on a superficial quality or belief

If you think you have a civil rights case, you can read more here on how a civil rights attorney can help you.


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