Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his mark on the U.S. and the world when he pioneered for civil rights and equality decades ago.
His story has been told and recreated in numerous forms: books, movies, articles and podcasts highlight facts about the activist’s life until his death in 1968.
While most people know about the Baptist minister’s work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, his push for nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience to create change and his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, some facets of King’s life are discussed infrequently.
Here are five things you might not have known about Martin Luther King Jr.:
1. King was the middle child, and his birth is celebrated nationwide.
Born January 15, 1929, to Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King, Martin Luther King Jr. was the couple’s second child and their first son. Martin Luther King Jr. had an older sister and a younger brother. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of two Americans whose birthday is celebrated as a national holiday; the other is George Washington.
2. Martin wasn’t always his name.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born Michael King Jr. His father, who was born Michael King, changed his name after the death of his father-in-law in 1931. After filling in the pastoral footsteps of his father-in-law, Michael King Sr. adopted the name Martin Luther King in honor of the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther. Michael Jr. later took the name, too.
3. He skipped two grades and entered college at a young age.
Martin Luther King Jr. skipped the ninth and the 11th grade and started his college career at Morehouse College in Atlanta at the age of 15 in 1944.
4. He survived an assassination attempt.
Izola Ware Curry, a mentally ill woman, stabbed King with a letter opener at a 1958 book signing. The seven-inch blade was lodged near his heart, and it took doctors hours of surgery to remove the blade. “The X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery,” King said in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. “And once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood. That’s the end of you.”
5. He was arrested more than two dozen times.
King was arrested 30 times.
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