As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this January, you may have spent a bit of time reflecting on this courageous American’s contributions to civil rights and the difference his work made – and continues to make even today. But we’ve gathered a few fun facts that you might not know about this hero, just in time for the holiday!
- What’s in a Name? Martin Luther King Jr. was actually born Michael King Jr., named after his father, Michael King Sr. However, when MLK Jr. was just two years old, his father changed his own name to Martin Luther King in tribute to the German theologian Martin Luther, and decided to change his son’s name, too.
- A 15 year old College Student? In addition to being passionate and extremely articulate, Martin Luther King Jr. was also incredibly intelligent. In fact, he skipped the 9th and 12th grades, beginning college at age 15 and graduating at 19. King Jr. attended Morehouse college as a legacy – both his father and grandfather attended the school.
- Like Father Like Sons! The family tradition doesn’t end there. You probably know that Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister. But did you know that he was at least the fourth in his family to serve the church? His great grandfather was an “old slavery time preacher” and his grandfather was a Baptist minister. Martin Luther King Sr. took over his father’s ministry when he passed away, and MLK Jr. followed in his footsteps, eventually becoming a Baptist minister himself.
- And the Grammy Goes to… Many honors and awards were bestowed upon King Jr., including being names Valedictorian of his college class. He won the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35; in fact, he was the youngest recipient until Malala Yousef recently won the award at the age of 17. Upwards of 1,000 streets are named after him in the U.S., and even a few in other countries like Italy and Israel. And he’s one of only two Americans to have his birthday celebrated as a national holiday (President Washington is the other). But we bet you might not know that Martin Luther King Jr. actually won a Grammy Award! His “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam” won Best Spoken Word Album in 1971.
- Last, But Not Least. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech is one of the most memorable and meaningful presentations given in recent history. He was the last to speak at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, attended by more than 250,000 people. No one else wanted the last slot, as they thought the crowd would be dwindling and the media would be gone, but MLK Jr.’s 16-minute plea (it was only supposed to be four minutes long!) will be forever remembered as game changer in U.S. politics and the civil rights movement.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day this month, we remember one of King’s most important messages:
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.