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Martin Luther King Jr., the prominent, or rather, iconic civil rights leader is one of the three people in the US history who have a national holiday as a tribute to their outstanding achievements. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into federal law in 1983. The first celebrations were held three years later, but the 50 states did not start to observe the holiday all at once, with Arizona, New Hampshire and Utah being the latest to join.

Here are a few interesting and surprising facts about the civil rights legend:

  • Martin Luther King was originally named Michael, after his father, Michael Luther King Sr. But the latter decided to change his own name and the name of his two-year-old son to pay homage to the famous German theologian Martin Luther after visiting Germany in 1931.
  • Lorraine Bailey, the switchboard operator of the motel where King was shot, had a heart attack after witnessing the assassination and died a few hours later. This may have been an additional reason for King’s death – Reverend Samuel Kyles had no chance to call an ambulance because there was nobody to redirect his call at the switchboard.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. suffered another attempt upon his life a decade earlier. He was stabbed in the chest at an autograph session; the blade went so deep that its tip was pressed against the aorta and even a sneeze could cause King his life. It took surgeons 3 full hours to remove the blade.
  • King skipped two grades at school to enter college at the age of 15. He received a bachelor’s degree at 19, entered seminary and got a PhD at 25. Interestingly enough, he didn’t want to become a minister at first, considering the professions of a lawyer or a doctor. Besides, during his first year at seminary, he got a C in public speaking, which is completely incomprehensible.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. talked Nichelle Nichols out of leaving Star Trek. He insisted that her image of Uhura was very important as it showed a black person in a major stereotype-busting role on TV. It had a great impact on the lives and achievements of such famous people as actress Whoopi Goldberg and astronaut Ronald McNair.
  • In 1964 King won a Nobel Peace Prize and donated all of the reward to the Civil Rights Movement. At that time he was the youngest male to receive the Peace Prize. Martin Luther King also won a Grammy for the Best Spoken Word Album (“Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam”.)
  • King’s speech “I have a dream” triggered a lot of unwanted attention. The FBI even marked him as dangerous for the future of the nation and supposedly sent him anonymous blackmail threats. The FBI has classified surveillance and other records concerning Martin Luther King Jr. sealed from public access until 2027.

The effect that Martin Luther King Jr. produced upon the race relations in the US can be compared to that of an earthquake; however, he only used non-violent means to achieve social justice. The work of the most widely known African-American leader has been honored with numerous streets, public buildings and schools named after him. As every human being, Martin Luther King Jr. was not infallible; he had many flaws, but none of them is grand enough to diminish his achievements and deprive him of the title of a civil rights visionary leader. Pay homage to the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. by playing our Martin Luther King Day quiz!

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