10 Little Known Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.

Today, as we all remember the late Martin Luther King Junior, let us not only remember him as the great civil rights leader that he was, but learn more about the boy he was and the man that he grew up to be.

Together with Philly.com and Atlanta Blackstar, we have posted some of the most interesting facts about Martin Luther King Junior, also known as Dr. King.

Fact 1: Martin Luther King Jr. was not always his name.
While many refer to the late Dr. King as “Martin Luther King”, he was in fact named after his father and therefore should be referred to as Martin Luther King Junior.  Still, Dr. King was not always called Martin Luther King Junior.  His original name was Michael King Jr., but in 1931 when his father became a pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, he adopted the name Martin Luther King Sr. and changed 6 year old Dr. Kings name on his birth certificate to Martin Luther King Jr.

Fact 2: Dr. King received a C in public speaking.
While Dr. King’s father, a preacher in Atlanta, thought that his son  was the best speaker he’d seen, Dr. King actually received a C in public speaking while away at seminary school.  However, by the time Dr. King was in his third and final year of school, he was a valedictorian with straight A’s.

Fact 3: Dr. King was deeply influenced by the teachings and philosophies of Mohandas Gandhi.
In an interview, Dr. King said he attended a lecture from the president of Howard  Universitygiven in Philadelphia about Gandhi, and he immediately became  “deeply influenced” by the philosophy of nonviolence.

Fact 4: Dr. King was also influenced by many great writers.
According to an article in Forbes, Dr. King was influenced by, and often quoted, some of the greatest writers of his and his fathers time.  These writers included Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalist authors who had opposed slavery and spoke out against it before the Civil War.

Fact 5: Dr. King was virtually unknown when named as spokesman for the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955.
Concerned that there were some rivalries within the civil rights movement, Dr. King was chosen as a virtually unknown bipartisan leader.  He had only recently arrived in Alabama, and the leaders of the boycott, which was sparked by Rosa Parks’  decision to keep her bus seat, wanted a newcomer to be the public voice of the  movement.

Fact 6.  Dr. King apparently improvised parts of the “I Have A  Dream” speech. 
Clarence B. Jones worked on the draft of the speech, which was being revised up to the time Dr. King took the podium. He said that the “dream” wasn’t originally referenced in the speech, however, Dr. King added it live when singer Mahalia Jackson prompted him to speak about the “dream” right before his speech.

Fact 7. Dr. King was the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner when he received it in 1964. 
While Tawakkol Karman of Yemen is currently the youngest winner on record(age 32 when she won the prize in 2011), in 1964, Dr. King was the youngest winner at age 35 to have received the award since its origin in 1901.

Fact 8. Dr. King and his wife spent their honeymoon in a very unusual place.
When Dr. King married his wife Coretta, the newlyweds were rejected by a “whites-only” hotel and opted to spend their wedding night together at a “black-owned” funeral home.


Fact 9. Dr. King had a role in the premiere of Gone with the Wind.
Now considered to be a classic film chronicling the Civil War and one woman’s romance through it, a 10-year-old Dr. King sang with his father’s church choir at the Atlanta gala premiere of the movie in 1939.

Fact 10. Dr. King almost died in 1958 but was saved by blacks and white working together. 
According to an in-depth article by the Daily Beast, Dr. King was stabbed with a letter opener at one of his book signings.  His life was saved largely in part by the actions of a pair of police, one black and one white, and surgeons, also one black and one white.