In honor of Black History Month, we’re compiling facts that you might not have known about key figures in literature and history. First up, we have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose speeches, letters, and works of literature are known worldwide. He was the prominent leader in the Civil Rights movement that changed the United States and ultimately cost him his life.
Here are 11 facts you might not have known about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and don’t forget to watch the accompanying video here.
1. He was born “Michael King Jr”
His father changed both of their names in honor of the German Reform Leader, Martin Luther.
2. He graduated with a BA in sociology when he was 19 years old
3. He lived through an attempted assassination
On September 20, 1958 he was stabbed with a letter opener by a mentally ill woman at a book signing. The edge of the blade was so close to his aorta that a sneeze would have been fatal.
4. He was a big fan of Star Trek
When actress Nichelle Nichols considered leaving Star Trek after the show’s first season, King Jr. convinced her to stay. On the show, Nichols played “Uhura,” one of the first African American characters who didn’t conform to black stereotypes.
5. He was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize
King was 35 when he was awarded the prestigious honor, and donated all of the prize money (about $420,000 today) to the Civil Rights movement.
6. He was an avid smoker
He never smoked publicly out of concerns that his children might pick up the habit, as well as the social stigma that came with it.
7. James Earl Ray was innocent
In 1999 James Earl Ray, the supposed assassin, was found to be innocent in a civil trial conducted by King’s family. The same trial found the FBI and the Memphis Police Department guilty of conspiracy in his death.
8. He is one of three people that have a Federal day named after them
George Washington and Christopher Columbus are the other two. King’s day was only adopted statewide in 2000.
9. He won a Grammy
In 1971, he was posthumously awarded a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for his “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.”
10. Nearly every major city in the US has a street named after him
There over 900 streets in the USA that carry his name. King’s home state of Georgia has the most, with 105 streets (as of 2006).
11. Another person died on the night of his assassination
Switchboard operator and wife of the motel owner that MLK was staying at had a heart attack when she witnessed his assassination. Because no one was working the board when they tried to call an ambulance, there was a delay in help arriving. The woman did not survive.
Featured image courtesy of National Geographic