10 Little Known Facts About Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do you know what his birth name was or that before his death, he’d survived one assassination attempt?
Given that there’s a national holiday in his honor as well as a national monument, it’s easy to think that the public knows pretty much everything there is to know about civil rights icon the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. While most Americans know why King has become a legend and how his activism promoted equality, some parts of his life and legacy have not been widely publicized. Here are 10 little known facts about Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was listed as “Michael King” on his birth certificate. King’s father said that this was a mistake the doctor made because Martin Luther King Sr. was nicknamed “Mike” and the doctor assumed that Michael was his legal name rather than Martin.
King’s parents, Martin Sr. and Alberta, had two other children—Willie Christine King and Alfred Daniel Williams King. Martin Jr. was the middle child.
A Morehouse graduate, King was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. The group played a key role in getting the government to create the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, which opened in late 2011.
King and his wife, Coretta, met after a mutual friend give him her number. She reportedly was turned off because King, 5 feet 7, wasn’t taller. The two married after a yearlong courtship.
King was just 25 when he became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., in 1954.
Before his death, King had survived another assassination attempt. A mentally ill black woman named Izola Curr stabbed King on Sept. 20, 1958, at a book signing in Harlem.
King, born on Jan. 15, 1929, became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He donated the $54,000 prize money from the award to civil rights causes.
King seemed to predict his own death. The night before his assassination on April 4, 1968, he delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in which he remarked, “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.”
A national King holiday was first proposed four days after his assassination on April 4, 1968. It took until 1983 for Congress to agree to pass legislation to honor the activist with a holiday. That’s partly because in the years after his death, some members of the public and politicians viewed King as a radical, communist and agitator who didn’t deserve such recognition.
The state of Arizona was the last to recognize the King holiday. The National Football League relocated Super Bowl XXVII to California because of Arizona’s refusal to honor the King holiday. In 1992, Arizonans agreed to recognize the holiday.
[ALSO READ: Why Conservatives Would’ve Attacked King]