15 facts about Martin Luther King Jr. you might not know

Dr. King playing pool in Chicago in 1966. Photo: NYT

Legendary civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King Jr. born on January 15, 1929, and until he was fatally shot on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 39, he was a preacher who used the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience to fight for equality and justice.

King was an interesting person besides his known roles in social activism which led to his death. Posthumously, King continues to make waves and currently, all the states in the U.S. annually observe the third Monday of January as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Here are some facts about Dr King you might not know:

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was a smoker, but he hid his habits to avoid stigma and controversy as a Christian leader. It is reported that King was smoking on the balcony of the Memphis hotel before he was shot.

Until 2011, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He was just 35 years old when he won it in 1964. King donated all the Nobel Peace Prize money – $54,123 – to the Civil Rights movement.

After serving as minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, King moved to Atlanta to become co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father. He was ordained in 1948 and had served in Montgomery till 1954.

MARTIN LUTHER KING,Jr. appears(front row, right) in an early photo with his family.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s was named “Michael” when he was born. His father Martin Luther King Sr. who was also called Michael changed their names to Martin after visiting Germany where he was inspired by the Protestant leader Martin Luther.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s first published speech was when he was 15 and a junior in high school. It was titled, “The Negroe and the Constitution”.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the SCLC Office, Atlanta, Georgia, 1966 by Bob Fitch. Courtesy of Bob Fitch Photo Archive Stanford University libraries.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the SCLC Office, Atlanta, Georgia, 1966 by Bob Fitch. Courtesy of Bob Fitch Photo Archive Stanford University libraries.

Martin Luther King Jr. with his sister Christine King Farris

King skipped the 9th and 12th grade and started his education at Morehouse College when he was 15. He joined the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.

King was arrested 30 times and charged with everything including speeding and acts of civil disobedience.

MARTIN LUTHER KING,Jr. appears(front row, right) in an early photo with his family.

Kings mother Alberta Williams King was also shot and killed in 1974 while playing the organ at church in Atlanta. 23-year-old Marcus Wayne Chenault who shot her said: “all Christians are my enemies”.  

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March on Washington in 1963.

The iconic August 28, 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was not the original speech prepared by his lawyer, speechwriter and confidant Clarence B. Jones. He spoke off the cuff.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album in 1971. The posthumous honour was given for his album Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.

Martin Luther King Jr. is the only non-president to have a national holiday in his honour. He is also the third to have a national holiday after presidents George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

King is reported to have attempted suicide when he was 12 years old. This was after he disobeyed his parents by going to watch a parade, and returned home to the death of his grandmother who suffered a heart attack. He jumped from the second storey window of his house.

King spent his honeymoon at a funeral parlour that belonged to his friend. This was the only option to have a romantic break due to the segregation at the time that prevented them from getting a decent hotel.

There are over 700 streets in the United States named after Martin Luther King Jr.

This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on face2faceafrica.com

Published by Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei is an international journalist, digital media and communications professional, editor, writer, arts, culture and tourism advocate, human rights activist, pan-Africanist, tech enthusiast and history buff. He has worked with multinational media companies across Africa and has over a decade’s experience in journalism.

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