Today, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968). He was a minister and social activist whose leadership during the American civil rights movement changed the course of history. Many of us have studied the importance of his work, but here are 5 facts about Martin Luther King Jr you may not know.
1.King’s birth name was Michael, not Martin.
The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son (from history.com).
2. Dr. King got a C in public speaking at seminary school. Dr. King’s father, a preacher in Atlanta, thought his son was the best speaker he’d ever seen, before he went away to seminary school. But in his first year of seminary school in Chester, Pennsylvania, one of Dr. King’s professors gave him a C in a public speaking course! In his third and final year, Dr. King was valedictorian with straight A’s (from constitutioncenter.org).
3. Dr. King apparently improvised parts of the “I Have A Dream” speech in August 1963, including its title passage. Clarence B. Jones worked on the draft of the speech, which was being revised up to the time Dr. King took the podium. He says Dr. King’s remarks were up in the air about 12 hours before he spoke, and the “dream” reference wasn’t in the speech. Dr. King later added it live when singer Mahalia Jackson prompted him to speak about the “dream.” In June 1963, Dr. King had talked about his dream in a speech in Detroit (from constitutioncenter.org).
4. When Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, at the time he was the youngest Peace Prize winner ever, at the age of 35. Currently, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest winner on record; she was 17 when she won the prize in 2014. His acceptance speech in Norway included the famous statement, “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” (from history.com).
5. King entered college at the age of 15.
King was such a gifted student that he skipped grades nine and 12 before enrolling in 1944 at Morehouse College, the alma mater of his father and maternal grandfather. Although he was the son, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist ministers, King did not intend to follow the family vocation until Morehouse president Benjamin E. Mays, a noted theologian, convinced him otherwise. King was ordained before graduating college with a degree in sociology (from history.com)