10 Facts You Didn't Know About Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The American Baptist minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was assassinated when he was only 39 years old, was best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using non-violent protest. In honor of the national holiday held around King's birthday each year, here are 10 facts about the activist:

  • His first experience with racism was a very personal one. Dr. King recounted in his autobiography that his first personal encounter with segregation occurred when his white childhood friend suddenly refused to play with him anymore. This betrayal marked the moment he first became interested in fighting against racism.
  • King enrolled in college when he was 15. King was a very precocious child. This trait lead him to skip not just one, but several grade levels, including his senior year of high school. Instead of finishing out his 12th-grade year, King enrolled at Morehouse College at age 15, where he completed a Bachelor's degree in sociology.
  • He earned his PhD in systematic theology. If you're wondering why he's known as Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., it's because on top of receiving two Bachelor's degrees (one in sociology from Morehouse College and the other in divinity from The Crozer Theological Seminary) King went on to earn a doctorate of Philosophy from Boston University in 1955.
  • This is all in addition to the 18 honorary degrees he later received. As if earning three degrees as a student wasn't enough, Dr. King was awarded honorary doctorates from Howard University, Bard College, Yale, Wesleyan, and many other higher education institutions.
  • He met his future wife over a telephone call. While studying at Boston University, King lamented to friends that he had yet to meet any woman he seriously liked. He then reached out to his friend, Mary Powell, who played matchmaker and suggested he meet Coretta Scott. The couple had their very first interaction over a brief phone conversation, where they agreed to meet in person.
  • King and his wife had an unusual honeymoon. King married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953 in Alabama. After enjoying a beautiful ceremony lead by King's father, the couple looked for a place to stay the night. At the time, no hotels in their area welcomed black couples as guests. As a result, the pair spent their first night together in a funeral home.
  • He won a Grammy award. Speaking of speeches, it's worth noting that one of King's most controversial addresses actually received a ton of praise. The speech, bluntly titled "Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam," was recorded on vinyl and earned King a Grammy nod for Best Spoken Word Album. 
  • He almost died years before his assassination. In 1958, a mysterious woman approached King at a book signing event in New York City. She then stabbed him with a letter opener, which resulted in King sustaining a life-threatening injury close to his heart. He survived the attack because he received prompt emergency medical care.
  • He is still the youngest man to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1964, King received this honor for his unwavering commitment to civil rights, nonviolence, and helping the US government move toward making discrimination unlawful. He was 35 years old then, which makes him still the youngest male to ever receive this award. (The youngest person to ever receive one would be female activist Malala Yousfazi. )
  • He is honored in more than 1,000 cities all over the world. There are currently more than 50 statues commemorating Dr. King worldwide, including one in England at Westminster Abbey, and another in Cuba. And that number doesn't even include the countless schools and 1,000 plus streets named after him worldwid


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