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10 Facts You Did Not Know About Martin Luther King Jr.

Who is Martin Luther King Jr.?

Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta in 1929 and grew up in a community faced with strict racial segregation, whether at school, church, public transport, or even at the toilets. This prevalent racism shaped the everyday life of the African-American population. Even as a child, he felt this was a great injustice, not least because his father (a pastor) also campaigned against discrimination against the black population.  

Because of this influence, he became one of the most influential and well-known civil rights activists in U.S. history. It was primarily through his work that the Civil Rights Movement became a mass movement that brought about the end of racial segregation and the unrestricted right to vote for the black population of the United States. 

However, his commitment and achievements not only delighted countless people around the world but also called for opponents. One of them was the multi-convicted racist James Earl Ray, who shot Martin Luther King on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. As is often the case with the tragic ends of great personalities, there is no lack of conspiracy theories about the true story and reason behind the assassination. Some theories say that Ray was only a puppet of the true backers of the attack. However, there is nothing more than vague evidence to support this assumption. 

What is clear and evident is King's impact on our society. The famous phase "I have a dream" has been taught, repeated, and utilized all over the world in the discussion about racism and civil rights activism. Martin Luther King's speech (1929-1968) is probably one of the most famous in the world. The black civil rights activist was murdered 50 years ago (April 4, 1968), five years after his legendary speech on August 28, 1963, at the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."  While we may remember his famous words, we want to honor the activists and all those he inspired to fight against racism by introducing 10 facts that you may not have known about Martin Luther King Jr.

 

1. THE WORDS "I HAVE A DREAM" WERE NOT PLANNED AT ALL

King had been talking for over ten minutes and was at the end of his manuscript. The passage that entered the history books was not planned at all. He had used similar words in previous speeches and wanted to do without them this time - he thought they were hackneyed. But the speech does not ignite; the spark simply does not jump over. And then Mahalia Jackson, the great gospel singer, calls from the front row: "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" Then he pushes the manuscript aside and raises his voice. "I have a dream ...!" He completely improvised the lines that made history. 

 

2. KING BECAME A PREACHER AS A YOUTH

Although Martin Luther King Jr. was deeply religious, he did not really want to become a pastor. He envisioned becoming a doctor or lawyer. But in a way, he grew into the job because his father was a preacher to a Baptist church in Atlanta, Georgia. It so happened that Martin Luther King Junior (his father's name was the same) became his father's auxiliary preacher at the age of 17. In college, he finally realized that public speaking was his great talent and he enrolled to study theology. In 1955, he even earned a doctorate in theology. 

 

3. WHY MARTIN LUTHER KING IS NAMED AFTER A GERMAN

    King was named after his father - who was called Michael King. In his childhood, he was called "Little Mike." One day, his dad took part in a Baptist conference in Berlin. Afterward, he visited several historical places of the work of Martin Luther. This left such a deep impression that he renamed himself after the German reformer's and renamed his five-year-old son too! 

     

    4. AS A CHILD, MARTIN LUTHER KING TRIED TO COMMIT SUICIDE

    When the future preacher and social revolutionary was twelve, his grandmother died. He was so close to her that her death plunged him into deep grief. In grief, he tried to take his own by jumping from the second floor. Thankfully, for King and for the civil rights movement that he would lead in the future, the attempt failed. 

     

    5. MORE THAN ONE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT WAS MADE ON KING

    Ten years before the fatal attack in 1968, a mentally ill woman stabbed King with a knife at a signing event. The stab so close to its main artery that King would not have survived if it was even a new millimeters closer to the artery. If he had sneezed, he probably would have died. King, however, refrained from reporting the woman. In the last speech before his death, he foresaw that he would not die a natural death: "I saw the promised land. Maybe we don't go in together, but I'm happy. I'm not afraid of anyone. My eyes saw the glory of the coming Lord! "

     

    6. KING IS THE YOUNGEST NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER EVER

    Martin Luther King was a legend during his lifetime. He won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize at the young age of 35.  He is still the youngest male award winner of all time. 

     

    7. KING LOST POPULARITY IN THE LAST YEARS OF HIS LIFE

    Today, Martin Luther King has a status like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, or JFK  in the eyes of the general public and history. However, according to a 1966 poll, over 63 percent of Americans viewed him negatively. Five years earlier, it was only 37 percent of Americans who viewed him negatively. The reason for the decrease in popularity was a changed focus on his engagement. He still received a lot of approval for his commitment to African American civil rights. But later on in his life, King focused his activism efforts on resisting the Vietnam War and poverty in general. These views against the Vietnam war and views about poverty alleviation found much less sympathy and support from the general American public. 

     

    8. HE SPENT HIS WEDDING NIGHT IN A FUNERAL HOME

    One of King's main concerns was the desegregation of blacks. But when he married his wife Coretta Scott King in 1953, American society was far from that. Discrimination was also pervasive in hotels. That is why there were no "honeymoon suites" for African Americans. Without any options available to them, the young couple spent their wedding night in the building of a funeral home. At this time, racism truly pervaded all aspects of life for African Americans. 

     

    9. KING WON A GRAMMY

    Martin Luther King won a Grammy, the most prominent music award in the world. But the Grammy was not given for his singing abilities (although he sang in the church choir as a child). In fact, he won the 1971 Grammy award for the best album in the "Spoken Word" category. He received the posthumous honor for his album "Why I am against the war in Vietnam." 

     

    10. WHAT DISTINGUISHES THE MARTIN LUTHER KING HOLIDAY FROM OTHER COMMEMORATIVE DAYS

    There are several commemorative holidays in the United States. But the "Martin Luther King Jr." holiday is special for several reasons: it is the only holiday in the United States dedicated to someone who has never held a political office. In addition to George Washington, King is the only one whose birthday is a public holiday. Also extraordinary: The day is also celebrated in Toronto (Canada) and Hiroshima (Japan). And in the United States itself, the holiday, although introduced in 1983, has only been celebrated in all states since 2000. 

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