Martin Luther King, Jr. was an amazing man that led the American Civil Rights Movement.
Here are 9 things that you and your students may not know about MLK, but should…
- Martin is actually Michael. Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929 and was actually named Michael. However, in 1934 when MLK was five years old, his father became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther during a trip to Germany. Surprisingly, his father also changed his own name to Martin Luther King.
- Dr. King skipped lots of classes, but not what you think. He was such a brilliant student that he was able to skip the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. He enrolled in Morehouse College at the age of 15.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed a total of 29 times. For the most part, he was arrested for acts of civil disobedience. The rest of the charges were trumped-up and one time he was actually arrested for driving five miles over the speed limit.
- Although King’s “I Have a Dream’ speech is his most memorable, it was not his first delivered at the Lincoln Memorial. In 1957 King delivered his first speech at the Lincoln Memorial over the topic of voting rights. A huge crowd of up to 30,000 attended that speech.
- King was almost assassinated ten years before his actual death. As Dr. King was autographing copies of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” on September 20, 1958, he was approached by a woman. She told MLK that she had been looking for him for five long years. The woman, Izola Ware Curry, then stabbed King in the chest with a seven-inch letter opener. He was required to undergo many hours of emergency surgery as the tip of the blade rested alongside his aorta. Even though it took weeks for Dr. King to recover, he still affirmed his nonviolent principles and stated that he felt no ill will against his attacker.
- MLK may have predicted his own death. April 4, 1968 was the eve before his assassination. On this day, King was speaking before the city’s black garbage workers at the Mason Temple Church in Memphis. During the speech he stated:
“I would like to live a long life… But I’m not concerned about that now… I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried abut anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
- King’s mother, Alberta Williams King, was also shot and killed. On June 30, 1974 King’s mother was playing the organ at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Marcus Wayne Chenault, Jr. drew two pistols and opened fire. Mrs. King was shot and sadly she died just a few steps from where her son preached about nonviolence. Although the gunman thought he had received divine instructions to kill MLK’s father, he ended up shooting his mother simply because she was closer. Due to the fact that MLK’s family opposed the death penalty, he ultimately received life in prison.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.’s son met with his father’s killer. James Earl Ray pled guilty to assassinating King, but he later recanted. In 1997 Dr. King’s son, Dexter, met with James Earl Ray and openly argued for the case to be reopened. Dexter and Dr. King’s widow, Coretta, believed that the Mafia and government agencies were involved in the assassination.
- Dr. King and George Washington have something in common. On the third Monday of each January, the United States celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, January 15th. George Washington is the only other American to have his birthday observed as a national holiday.
If you are studying his life and accomplishments in your classroom, you may want to check out my newest MLK Resource: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Booklets & Learning Kit.