5 Little Known Facts about Martin Luther King Jr.

5 Little Known Facts about Martin Luther King Jr

Every January, on the third Monday of the month, post offices close, schools take a day off and banks are not open. This federal holiday is for the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., an American civil rights leader who was influential in ending racial segregation.

Martin Luther King Jr. is well known for his speech called “I Have a Dream.” He was also the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, as he advocated for non-violent protest against racial discrimination. Sadly, in 1968 King was assassinated.

Most of this might seem rather familiar, however there are many things of the life and times of King that you might be unfamiliar with. Here are 5 little known facts about Martin Luther King Jr.

He went to college early

King was a very intelligent young man. He skipped grades in school and entered college at the age of 15. He attended Morehouse College starting in 1944. This was the alma mater of his father and maternal grandfather. Initially he did not intend to follow in the footsteps of his family history of being Baptist ministers. He was eventually convinced, and then ordained when he graduated with a degree in sociology.

King went on to seminary school and eventually earned his Ph.D in 1955 from Boston University.

He was imprisoned almost 30 times

As a leader of nonviolent protest, King was arrested 29 times. He had been charged with offenses such as loitering, disobeying a police order, violating terms of a suspended sentence, perjury on taxes, driving with an improper license and for participating in ‘sit-in’ demonstrations.

It is believed by many that some of the arrests were exacerbated. For instance, he was jailed for going 30 mph in a 25 mph zone among other “crimes.”

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

While most people are at least somewhat familiar with King’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” most people may not realize he gave another speech at the Lincoln Memorial beforehand.

On May 17, 1957, King was invited with other civil rights leaders of the time to speak during the Prayer Pilgrimage of Freedom. His speech was the first time in which he spoke nationally about voting rights to a crowd between 15,000-30,000 people.

King received a lot of public attention and praise for this speech. He implored that many African Americans were still unable to register to vote, citing methods that blocked them from signing up. He urged the president of the United States and all of congress to “give us the right to vote.” He asked several times in this speech to “Give us the ballot…”

Six years later he took the stage once again at the Lincoln Memorial to deliver the most iconic speech, “I Have a Dream.” His speech imagines an America where his children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. He dreams of children of all colors holding hands in Alabama. He speaks of his faith and “..the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

He had more than one assassination attempt

Although King succumbed to an assassination in 1968, it wasn’t the first time it was attempted. In 1958, Congress passed the first Civil Rights Act, and it is also the same year that a woman stabs King.

King was signing copies of his new book called, “Stride Toward Freedom.” He was in Harlem, set up at Blumstein’s department store. A woman named Izola Ware Curry approached King. She asked him who he was and then proceeded to stab him with a letter opener in his chest.

The tip of the letter opener came to rest on his aorta, and nearly killed him immediately. He was rushed to the emergency room where he needed surgery. After a long and delicate procedure, King was put back together, but was told it was a very close call. Had King just sneezed, he would have been killed instantly. He gave a statement from his hospital bed and confirmed his non-violent ways, insisting he felt no ill will towards Curry.

There’s more to his death

Ultimately, in 1968 King was shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray. While initially Ray admitted to killing King, he later recanted. Ray was a career criminal, but King’s family does not believe he acted alone.

The King family claims that others were involved, and include the Mafia along with other government agencies. A 1999, civil trial ruled that his death was indeed a conspiracy and Ray was used to take the blame. However, in 2000, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation released a statement saying there was no evidence of any conspiracy.

Final Thoughts

The life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. are both inspiring and sad. He was taken far too young and with much more work to do for his community and the people of America. While you might know a few facts of King, these are some of the little known facts about this remarkable man.