5 Lesser-Known Facts About Martin Luther King, Jr.

5 Lesser-Known Facts About Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each year on the third Monday of January, we observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (MLK Day) in the United States. Although it is a federal holiday, it is also a chance to reflect on the work that still needs to be done to establish racial equality. This year, aim to make this holiday more than a day off from work. Take the time to select and consider how you can get involved in civil rights issues around the world. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was born on January 15th, 1929. Best known for his work as a civil rights leader, King dedicated his life to working on racial equality and ending racial segregation in the United States. On MLK Day, we remember his life and achievements, but it took quite some time for Congress to make King’s birthday a federal holiday. 

A Brief History Of MLK Day

The bill first came to vote in the U.S. House of Representative in 1979, but it fell five votes short of the number required for passage. One argument against this day was that it would be too expensive, as a national holiday requires payment for federal employees. The other argument was that it would go against the longstanding tradition to have a holiday that honored a private citizen. King never held public office and, at the time, only two other figures had national holidays: George Washington and Christopher Columbus. 

The King Center sought out support from the general public and corporate community. It was Stevie Wonder’s release of the single “Happy Birthday” that truly popularized the campaign in 1980. Six million signatures were collected to petition for Congress to pass the law, which was the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. history. President Reagan, who initially opposed the holiday, signed a bill to create a federal holiday honoring Dr. King on November 2nd, 1983. On January 20th, 1986, the holiday was observed for the first time, and in the year 2000, all 50 states observed MLK Day for the first time. 

MLK Spent His Wedding Night In A Funeral Home

When MLK married Coretta Scott in June of 1953, they couldn’t stay in a hotel that would allow them, as African-Americans, to spend the night. What did they do? The newlyweds spent their first night as a married couple in an African-American-owned funeral home. Five years later, they were able to take a second, more pleasurable honeymoon in Mexico. 

His Birth Name Was Michael

At birth, MLK was given the name Michael King Jr, meaning that his father was Michael King. Later, his father changed his own name to Martin Luther, after the Protestant Reformation leader. He changed the name of his son when he changed his own name. 

The Most Famous Portion Of The “I Have A Dream Speech” May Have Been Improvised

Most people are aware of the first few sentences of this historic speech. It begins with, “I have a dream…,” and his “March on Washington” speech was very long. It was long enough to have been pre-written ahead of time. Historians, however, believe that King ad-libbed his most famous words on the day he gave the speech, August 28th, 1963. The ideas were similar to some that he expressed previously, but he delivered them in a uniquely powerful, memorable way. 

MLK Delivered That Speech To Over 250,000 People

As previously mentioned, MLK’s most famous speech was the “I Have A Dream” speech that he delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. He said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” He gave the speech at the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” event. The goal: to promote equal rights for all. Over 250,000 people listened to MLK speak that day, in awe of his words that would inspire future generations. 

There Are Over 900 Streets Worldwide Named For MLK

MLK is one of the most important figures that promoted equal rights via nonviolent tactics. He is a common namesake for streets and boulevards around the world. There are over 900 streets that bear MLK’s name. About 70% of those streets are in the Southern United States, with over 100 streets in King’s home state of Georgia.



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