20 Martin Luther King Jr Facts That Will Surprise You

Facts Chief

26 Oct 2017

Quick Facts

  1. Birthday: January 15, 1929
  2. Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia
  3. Death: April 4, 1968
  4. Place of Death: Memphis, Tennessee
  5. Family: Wife Coretta and 4 children
  6. Education: B.A. in sociology, B.D. in theology, Ph.D. in systematic theology
  7. Accomplishments: Civil rights movement, Nobel Peace Prize, humanitarianism
  8. Celebration: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrated on the third Monday in January
  9. Religion: Christian Baptist
  10. Parents: Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King

The FBI’s Investigation Documents of MLK’s Death Will Remain Secret until 2027

Martin Luther King Jr facts reveal that he was shot on the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, and died about an hour later in St. Joseph’s Hospital. James Earl Ray, a fugitive from the Missouri State Penitentiary, was arrested for the crime about 2 months later.

Although he confessed the murder, there were some doubts about his story and various conspiracy theories started to arise. Ray later admitted to pleading guilty just to get out of the strictest punishment, and he tried to withdraw his guilty plea for years without success.
Decades after Martin Luther King, Jr. had died, a man named Loyd Jowers shook the public by claiming that he was a part of the conspiracy that killed King, together with the government and the mafia.

The truth behind the great man’s assassination might be revealed in 2027 when the FBI’s investigation will become de-classified. The MLK Records Collection Act, which would force the immediate release of the documentation on King’s death, has been proposed on various occasions over the last 10 years but never passed.

King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech, One of the Greatest in US History, Was Improvised

The famous “I have a dream” speech was delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln monument in Washington D.C. The speech was drafted by King and his two colleagues, Stanley Levison and Clarence Benjamin Jones, and King followed the draft for the first part of his speech. But as the speech neared its end, Mahalia Jackson, a famous gospel singer, shouted from the crowd, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.”

That was the point after which the real history was written, as King started improvising and uttered the most famous words of his life, “I have a dream …”

King, Jr. Was Greatly Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s Philosophy

Martin Luther King Jr facts reveal that King was first introduced to Gandhi’s teachings through his advisors Bayard Rustin and Harris Wofford, who were both keen students of Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance.

King even traveled to India in the late 1950s, inspired by Gandhi’s effort and strength, but he never actually met his spiritual teacher, since Gandhi had been assassinated many years earlier, in 1948. He did, however, mention him in his speech when he received the Nobel Peace Prize and stayed true to a lot of his teachings until he was assassinated himself.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Was the Youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner at the Time

At the age of 35, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at the time – in 1964 – for bravely fighting racial inequality in a non-violent way. In the following years, there were younger recipients, including the current owner of the title of youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, but King still remains the youngest male ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Was a Brilliant Student

Not only did he earn a Ph.D. and B.D. in theology and a B.A. in sociology, he also skipped the 9th and 12th grades of high school and started attending college (Morehouse College in Atlanta) at the very young age of 15. However, there is a black mark on his academic career – portions of his dissertation were found to be plagiarized (almost 50 years after King received his Ph.D. degree) since proper quotations and citations were not used, but the degree was not revoked.

King Was among the Leaders of the 1963 March on Washington

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in US history, with approximately 250,000 participants, and Martin Luther King, Jr. was of course a part of it. Although he was not the driving force behind the organization of the event (that was his colleague, Bayard Rustin), he was the leader of one of the six biggest civil rights organizations of the time that organized the march together, and he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

This march is considered to have had an important role in passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on religion, sex, color, race or national origin. King and his fellow marchers also laid the foundation for the Selma Voting Rights Movement, which helped pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act – federal legislation that prohibited racial discrimination in voting.

King Was the First African-American to Be Named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year

King was honored with the title in 1963, after the March on Washington and his “I Have a Dream” speech. After him, only one other African-American got the title – Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 when he was (re)elected as US President.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Was Arrested 29 Times in His Life

With King being an avid believer in, and user of, the right to civil disobedience, it is no surprise that he was arrested so many times during the short course of his life. His most famous arrest happened in 1955 when King backed up Rosa Parks in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and thus started his ascent in the civil rights movement. However, not all of his arrests were connected to civil disobedience – he was also charged with speeding on one occasion.

First Assassination Attempt Happened 10 Years before King’s Death

Martin Luther King Jr facts reveal that he was stabbed during a book signing in 1958 while promoting his book “Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story”. The book was his account of the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott Movement. A mentally ill black woman, named Izola Curry, stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener, believing that he was conspiring with communists against blacks.

It took 3 hours to remove the opener from his chest since it was pressing against the aorta, and doctors proclaimed King very lucky to have survived.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Anticipated His Own Death

Martin Luther King Jr facts reveal that he knew the end was coming and made that clear in his last speech before his assassination, on April 3, 1968, at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And 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. So 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.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. Was Originally Named Michael

And so was his father, Martin Luther King, Sr., who changed his first name from Michael in homage to the famous German Protestant reformer of the 16th century, Martin Luther, after he visited Germany in 1931. Michael Luther King, Jr., who was two years old at the time, thus also got a new name. But most of his close family, except his wife, called him Mike throughout his whole life …

Martin Luther King, Jr. Attempted to Commit Suicide When He Was 12 Years Old

Martin Luther King Jr facts reveal that he attended a parade against his parents’ wishes on the day his grandmother suffered a fatal heart attack. Young Martin apparently blamed himself for the incident, so he jumped from the second-story window of their family house.

MLK Jr. Was a Regular Smoker, although He Desperately Tried to Hide It

In fact, he had gone out on the balcony for a smoke when he was assassinated, but one of his friends removed the pack of cigarettes and the cigarette butt before he was taken to the hospital to hide the fact that King was smoking. King’s decision to hide his habit was partially connected to the church’s stance on smoking, and partially to him not wanting to encourage his kids to smoke.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Got a C in Public Speaking at the Seminary

Despite his reputation as one of the most notable public speakers of all time, King actually got a C grade in his first year at the Crozer Theological Seminary. How this could have happened remains a mystery to this very day, but by his final year, King became a straight-A student and a valedictorian of his class.

King’s Family Was Left Practically Penniless after His Death

Although Martin Luther King Jr facts reveal that he was quite a wealthy man for most of his adult life, earning a decent income from his speaking engagements, books and even his Nobel Peace Prize financial reward, he left his wife and children practically penniless – and not only that, he also died without writing a will, causing many court battles among his family members in later years.

And where did all his money go? He donated most of it to the African-American Civil Rights Movement, of course…

Martin Luther King, Jr. Won a Grammy

He was no singer, even less a pop singer, but he was awarded a Grammy posthumously in 1971 for the Best Spoken Word Album for his “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam”. He was also nominated for the award in 1969 for his “I Have a Dream” speech, but lost to the poet, singer and songwriter Rod McKuen.

MLK’s Mother Alberta Williams King Was also Shot

Her life violently ended approximately 6 years and 2 months after the assassination of her son, when she was shot by a 23-year-old black man, Marcus Chenault, while she played the organ at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. And why did the disturbed young man shot MLK Jr.’s mother that day? Because he considered all Christians to be his enemies. Martin Luther King, Sr. was his target at first, but he later decided to shoot his wife instead.

J. Edgar Hoover Was One of the Biggest Adversaries of MLK Jr.

The infamous FBI director, serving in the position from the beginning of the Bureau in the 1930s until his death in the 1970s, was strong and very influential opposition to the young civil rights activist. Hoover wanted to undermine the power of the leader of the increasingly popular Civil Rights Movement, so he ordered his surveillance, and might even have been involved in his murder, according to some widely-accepted conspiracy theories.

Hoover was, of course, still the director of the FBI at the time of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, and thus in charge of the assassination investigation that charged James Earl Ray with the murder…

MLK Jr. Is One of Only 3 People Who Have a US National Holiday in Their Honor

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the US, celebrated each year around the time of the great activist’s birthday in January. That makes MLK Jr. one of only three people in American history to have a national holiday named after them, and the only native-born US citizen to carry that honor. The other two are George Washington, who was born before the USA officially existed, and Christopher Columbus, who was Italian.

More Than 700 Streets in the US Carry the Name of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr facts also reveal that there are various other memorials honoring the great activist’s name – both in the US and in other countries. The Dream sculpture in Portland, the Homage to King sculpture in Atlanta, the Landmark for Peace Memorial in Indianapolis, a part of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., a forest in Israel, a school in Ghana, a garden in India and countless others make sure that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name will never be forgotten…

Martin Luther King Jr Facts – Facts about Martin Luther King Jr Summary

Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most important figures in the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s – a movement that eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968. He was a well-educated minister, activist, and humanitarian who was most likely killed because of his nonviolent efforts to change the society, although the exact circumstances of his assassination in 1968 remain a secret for now. His speech during the 1963 March on Washington, known nowadays as “I Have a Dream”, is considered to be one of the most inspiring and influential speeches in US history.

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