Martin Luther King Jr is an enduring figure not only in American society, but worldwide. At a time of intense and unjust racial segregation in the US, King Jr was a figurehead for black civil rights. His empowering ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is regarded by millions as a tipping point for US society to start repealing racist laws and statutes.
While there is still racial unrest in the US at this time, without King Jr’s influence – and his contemporaries – modern black society would be in a very different position. Here is a stack of interesting facts about Martin Luther King Jr’s life and work.
Martin Luther King Jr was an Atlanta native who dedicated his life to civil rights action, creating important events such as the March on Washington in 1963, where more than 200,000 people bore witness to his most famous speech.
At the time, he was the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, at the age of 35 years old.
Tragically, King Jr was assassinated in 1968, months before his 40th birthday, while standing on a hotel balcony.
He had actually survived one attempt on his life before, in 1958. While signing his book Stride Toward Freedom in Harlem, a woman stabbed the author with a letter opener. However, following surgery, he survived.
King Jr actually forgave his attacker to an extent, stating that he wished no ill will towards his assailant, Izola Ware Curry.
In the USA, Martin Luther King Jr Day is celebrated on the third Monday each January. This is to reflect his birthday, January 15th.
He is only one of two American people to have a birthday claimed as a national holiday. The other US icon in question is George Washington, the first US President. It was US President Ronald Reagan who declared King Jr Day as a holiday in 1983, first taking place in 1986.
King Jr was arrested and jailed around 29 times in his life. Many charges related to civil disobedience and driving offences, which some historians deem to be reflective of unfair treatment of black citizens in Alabama at the time.
King Jr held a doctorate, which he obtained through PhD in 1955 – he graduated in systematic theology.
It is thought that Martin Luther King Jr made over 2,500 public speeches from 1957 up to his death. This may also have seen him travel more than six million miles across the US to do so.
Martin wasn’t King Jr’s real first name. Born Michael King Jr, his father bestowed the names Martin Luther on him, inspired by the religious philosopher of the same moniker. This change occurred only a few years into his life.
King Jr would become a reverend in later life, but he was actually something of a religious sceptic. In fact, he recounted that he wished to question everything he was told. “At the age of 13, I shocked my Sunday school class by denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly.”
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