Martin Luther King Jr. is arguably the most influential black leader in American history. He spearheaded a nationwide effort to end legal segregation while working to enact such laws as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. His most famous speech continues to be a staple in American culture. Here are five interesting facts about Martin Luther King Jr.
- King’s father was born Michael King, but changed his name in 1931 in reverence to the German theologian Martin Luther.
- After 12-year-old Martin learned that his grandmother had died from a heart attack in May 1941, he was so distraught that he jumped from a second story window of their house.
- Martin was almost assassinated before many of his famous civil rights accomplishments in the early 1960s. Izola Ware Curry approach Martin at a book signing for “Stride Towards Freedom.” After receiving confirmation that he was indeed Martin Luther King Jr. she exclaimed “I’ve been looking for you for five years” and stabbed Martin in the chest with a letter opener. The blade pressed against his aorta and took several hours of careful surgery to remove.
- Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 at the age of 35. This made him the youngest male recipient of the prestigious award. He donated the entire prize of $54,123 (now equivalent to $400,000) to the civil rights movement. Martin won dozens more awards for his work including the Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, and a Grammy. The Grammy was for Best Spoken Word Album, awarded in 1971 for King’s “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.”
- Martin Luther King Jr. was targeted by the FBI for being “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.” Records of Martin taken by the FBI are held in the National Achieve but remain sealed from public access until 2027.
These facts about Martin Luther King Jr. provide but a glimpse into the life of a man whose work is still so vital to the progress of U.S. society and democracy.
– Sunny Bhatt