Martin Luther King Jr: Little-known facts

Why MLK Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

This mural in Missouri honors Martin Luther King Jr.

Very few people get to have their own day, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We have a day for Columbus, for a couple of the presidents and for some saints, but the saints’ days we mostly inherited from the Europeans. So, clearly, the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. has a holiday named after him is kind of a big deal.

Most people know that Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader in the civil rights movement, and that he was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Most people know he was a clergyman, that his “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most famous in history and that he always encouraged only non-violent forms of civil disobedience. But today, I set out to see if I could learn anything new about Martin Luther King. I already knew that he tried to help the poor, and he strongly opposed the Vietnam War.

What I didn’t know about MLK  Jr.

Martin Luther King Sr. and Martin Luther King Jr. both started out as Michael. After a trip to Germany in 1934, when MLK Jr. was only five, his father changed both their names to Martin Luther to honor the German Protestant leader with that name.

MLK Jr. started at Morehouse College at the age of 15. He never formally graduated high school, but he has two bachelor’s degrees and a PhD. King got married at age 24 to Coretta Scott on his parents’ lawn, and he became a pastor at 25.

More interesting facts related to MLK Jr.

One of the demands made at the March on Washington in 1963 was that the federal government establish a minimum wage of $2 for all workers. In 1968, when he was visiting Memphis, where he was assassinated, he was there to help and support black sanitation workers who were on strike. His plane had been delayed because of bomb threats, and there were rumors of many other threats against him. In a speech the day before his death, he said:

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. 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.

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