Five Things You May Not Have Known About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 -1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement. Here are five facts you may not have known about the civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
1. His real birth name was Michael.
The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father 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.
2. King entered college at age 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.
3. King's "I Have A Dream" Speech wasn't his first at the Lincoln Memorial.
Six years before his iconic oration at the March on Washington, King was among the civil rights leaders who spoke in the shadow of the Great Emancipator during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom on May 17, 1957. Before a crowd estimated at between 15,000 and 30,000, King delivered his first national address on the topic of voting rights. His speech, in which he urged America to “give us the ballot,” drew strong reviews and positioned him at the forefront of the civil rights leadership.
4. King's mother was also slain by a bullet.
On June 30, 1974, as 69-year-old Alberta Williams King played the organ at a Sunday service inside Ebenezer Baptist Church, Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. rose from the front pew, drew two pistols and began to fire shots. One of the bullets struck and killed King, who died steps from where her son had preached nonviolence. The deranged gunman said that Christians were his enemy and that although he had received divine instructions to kill King’s father, who was in the congregation, he killed King’s mother instead because she was closer. The shooting also left a church deacon dead. Chenault received a death penalty sentence that was later changed to life imprisonment, in part due to the King family’s opposition to capital punishment.
5. George Washington is the only other American to have his birthday observed as a national holiday.
In 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that created a federal holiday to honor King. The holiday, first commemorated in 1986, is celebrated on the third Monday in January, close to the civil rights leader’s January 15 birthday.
TC's Note: Information for this WHOAment was obtained from history.com.
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