This week the US celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. The civil rights leader is perhaps most famous for his “I have a dream” speech, delivered to more than 200,000 people in Washington on August 28, 1963. That March on Washington was influential in the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In honor of MLK Day (January 21) here are five facts you might not know about the iconic civil rights leader:
- Martin was born as Michael King. His father, Martin Luther King, Sr., was also born with the name Michael but changed it to Martin when he was 22. He intended his son to also be Martin but claims that the birth certificate stated the wrong name. MLK Jr. never legally changed his name so he died as Michael King.
- Martin was only 26 years old when he led the Montgomery bus boycott.
- Martin wrote his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail in the margins of a newspaper because that is the only paper he had.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, but did you know five years before that he was stabbed with a letter opener by a homeless woman?
- The most well known part of Martin’s celebrated speech, “I have a dream,” were improvised.
Illinois was the first state to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday. Not until 2000 did all 50 states follow suit, with Utah being the last to recognize the holiday. Martin’s birthday was January 15 but the US celebrates the leader on the third Monday of January every year.