Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 90 this year on January 15th. Today’s holiday celebrates and remembers his life’s work and achievements, while also highlighting courageous efforts during the Civil Rights Movement. After his death in 1968, labor unions first pushed to establish a national holiday in his honor. Despite initial opposition, the day was finally established in 1983 after President Reagan signed it into law. While many of his accomplishments are well known, there are several things which may surprise you about the late Reverend. Below are 10 lesser-known facts about MLK Jr.
- Although his name was changed early on, his birthname is actually Michael, as was his father’s. After a trip to Germany, his father was inspired by the work of Martin Luther and changed both of their names in 1934, when he was just 5 years old.
- Most of the second half of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech was not part of his prepared script. The draft created by MLK and his advisors did not even contain the words I Have a Dream. During MLK’s delivery, Mahlia Jackson, the gospel singer who performed before him at the Lincoln Memorial, shouted to “tell them about the dream”. King continued his speech by opting to use alternative material which had been previously used in other speeches, speaking of his dream for our nation.
- He is one of two Americans to have a national holiday in their honor, and the only non-president. The other is George Washington, whose birthday is honored every year on President’s Day.
- He was named Time’s Person of the Year for 1963, the first of only 2 African-Americans to have ever received that title. President Obama also received this title in 2008 and 2012, after his election and re-election for presidency.
- During his lifetime he spoke through speeches and sermons over 2,500 times.
- In 1971 he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording for “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam”.
- He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 at the age of 35 for his leadership of the Civil Rights Movement and commitment to nonviolent actions.
- Over 900 streets are named after him, 122 of which in his birth state Georgia alone.
- He skipped both the 9th and 12th grades, allowing him to graduate with a bachelor’s degree at the age of 19.
- Martin Luther King Day wasn’t observed in all 50 states until the year 2000, when it was recognized by South Carolina.
To honor his legacy and continue his efforts, many people chose to spend the day by helping others. “MLK Day of Service is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a ‘Beloved Community’.” To find somewhere near you to volunteer today or in the future, visit the website of the Corporation for National and Community Service.