Whether it is the famous speeches or even the national holiday, Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy still resonates today. The renowned Civil Rights leader and minister was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Here are five things to know about the great MLK!
- Always A King, But Not Always Martin. Most people are aware of who Martin Luther King Jr. is, but not many people know that his birth name was Michael. In 1934, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and was infatuated by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. This led King’s father to change his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.
- A Gifted Scholar. Martin Luther King Jr. displayed his intellectual abilities from a young age. He was a gifted student which allowed him to enter college at the age of 15. He followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by attending Morehouse College in Atlanta. While at Morehouse, Benjamin Mays inspired him to pursue ministry, so he was ordained before completing college and graduated with a degree in sociology. King continued his education and received a Ph.D. from Boston University.
- Became A Focus Of The FBI. After generating popularity and attention, Martin Luther King Jr. became a focus of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and its director, J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI began monitoring Martin Luther King Jr., in December 1955 after his involvement in the Montgomery bus boycott. Under the FBI’s domestic counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) King was subjected to various forms of surveillance and covert operations against him throughout the 1960s.
- Survived An Assassination Attempt. On September 20, 1958, Martin Luther King Jr. became a survivor of an assassination attempt. While in Harlem, NY, signing copies of his book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” a woman approached King and plunged a seven-inch letter opener into his chest. Surgeons later told King that the blade could have killed him with one wrong move. Despite the unprovoked violence executed on him, King continued to affirm and uphold his nonviolent principles.
- A Grammy Award Winner. Martin Luther King Jr. may not have been a musician, but he did have a way with words. His 1967 address, “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam,” earned him a posthumous award for Best Spoken Word recording in 1971. Nearly three decades following his first Grammy Award win, in 2012 his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The Nobel Prize recipient died on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee after a fatal assassination. The place of his assassination, The Loraine Motel, has since become the National Civil Rights Museum in honor of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.