As the single most influential individual associated with the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. lived life under a spotlight. His legacy continues to be praised to this day for his courage, passion for justice and his devotion to civil equality. An advocate for nonviolence, Martin Luther King Jr. brought masses together in his time to fight against oppression with words and peaceful demonstration rather than brutality, violence and war.
His birthday, now a national holiday, celebrates and teaches many of the major highlights in his life, and resulted in a nation well-versed in his incredible life, justice goals and untimely, his martyred death.
For a man so inspiring, every day words that he spoke became inspirations to the public. Speeches and statements he gave lit a flame in the hearts of people who craved social justice and equality. In honor of Black History Month, here are 10 interesting facts about MLK, one of the most profound and inspiring American heroes:
- 1. Originally, Martin was not his first name—it was actually Michael. His father, Martin Luther King Sr.’s, name was also originally Michael but after a trip to Germany, he changed both Michaels to Martin in homage to the historic German, Martin Luther.
- 2. He and his wife, Coretta Scott, had four children named Yolanda Denise, Martin, Dexter and Bernice Albertine.
- 3. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology in 1955.
- 4. He was arrested on Jan. 26, 1956, for driving 30 mph in a 25 mph zone.
- 5. Just four days later on Jan. 30, his house was bombed.
- 6. In 1957, it is estimated that MLK traveled more than 780,000 miles and made 208 speeches.
- 7. MLK had a lifelong admiration for Gandhi and visited India in 1959—crediting Gandhi’s passive resistance techniques for his civil rights successes.
- 8. The first national celebration of MLK’s birthday was not until 1986.
- 9. It is estimated that more than 700 streets in the U.S. are named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- 10. At 35, King was the youngest man to have won the Nobel Peace Prize. All of his monetary winnings from the award were put toward furthering the issue of civil rights and towards civil rights movements.
– Eastin Shipman