close Niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers a message on his day of remembrance Video

Niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers a message on his day of remembrance

Fox News contributor and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Alveda King honors her uncle’s legacy, says MLK Day is about hope and unity.

Martin Luther King Jr. carved his way into history as a civil rights hero whose influence and legacy continue to inspire people around the world more than half a century after his death.

While the civil rights leader may be most remembered for his iconic and oft-quoted “I Have a Dream” address at the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington, King did more than just dream during his lifetime.

King was a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and participated in the Selma March, an event that resulted in the passage of the Voting Rights Act. This legislation helped African Americans exercise their right to vote. 


A solo photo of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to bringing equality to America through his powerful speeches and peaceful protesting. (Getty Images )

As the U.S. celebrates the life of the civil rights hero on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, here are 10 surprising facts you may not know about him.

1. He wasn’t named Martin at birth

King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, as Michael King Jr.

King’s father Michael, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, became inspired by the work of Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther during a trip overseas to such places as Rome, Egypt, Jerusalem and Berlin for the Baptist World Alliance.

When he returned in 1934, he decided to change his name and his son’s name from Michael King to Martin Luther King, according to the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford.

However, it wasn’t until 1957, when the younger King was 28 years old, that he officially changed the name on his birth certificate from Michael King Jr. to Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. delivering "I Have a Dream" speech

Martin Luther King Jr. legally changed his name when he was 28 years old. (Getty Images )


2. King started college at age 15

In 1944, King entered Morehouse College in Atlanta under a wartime program that admitted gifted high school students to boost enrollment, according to King’s biography from Encyclopedia Britannica.

King did not initially set out to become a minister, studying medicine and law until his senior year. He was mentored by college president Benjamin Mays, a Baptist minister and rights activist who influenced King’s later decision. King graduated from Morehouse in 1948.

3. He was a Grammy winner

King was posthumously awarded a Grammy in 1970. He won Best Spoken Word Album for “Why I Oppose The War In Vietnam,” recorded from a sermon he delivered in 1967.

He was previously nominated for two Grammys in the spoken-word category for recordings of “I Have a Dream” and “We Shall Overcome.”

4. He survived first assassination attempt in 1958

Almost a decade before his assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, King survived an attempt on his life.

A 29-year-old King was at a book signing in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood on Sept. 20, 1958, when Izola Ware Curry approached and asked, “Is this Martin Luther King?”

The crowd at Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech

There were over 250,000 people in attendance when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963. (CNP/Getty Images)


When King replied, “Yes,” Curry, a 42-year-old mentally ill Black woman, plunged a seven-inch letter opener into his chest, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

King retold the story of this first attempt on his life on the eve of his assassination in 1968, saying that had he merely sneezed, he would have died from his wound.

5. King and George Washington

King joined President George Washington as the only two Americans to have their birthdays observed as a federal holiday in 1983, when President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that recognized the third Monday in January – close to King’s birthday – as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

6. King was arrested 29 times

King was arrested close to 30 times throughout his life. Instances where he was arrested include with Rosa Parks and over 100 others in 1956 for his part in organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott, during an Atlanta-based sit-in, and for traveling 30 mph in a 25 mph zone. 

Martin Luther King Jr. in jail cell

Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested almost 30 times throughout his lifetime. (Getty Images )

7. Over 250,000 people attended King’s “I Have a Dream” speech 

There were over 250,000 people in attendance when King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., according to the National Constitution Center. 

Attendees from all over the world came to hear the speech, which was given during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963.

8. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964

King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, in 1964. The prize was awarded to King a year after he gave his famous “Dream” speech.

He was given the award “for his non-violent struggle for civil rights for the Afro-American population,” as cited by the Nobel Peace Prize website.  

King donated the money he received to the Civil Rights Movement. 

Martin Luther King Jr. receiving the Nobel Peace Prize

Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. (Getty Images )


9. Mahatma Gandhi was a great influence on King

One of King’s greatest influences was Mahatma Gandhi, specifically his philosophy of nonviolence. 

King first came across Gandhi’s peaceful ways while studying as a seminary student. He never got to meet the man he greatly admired, but he did visit India in 1959 for a month-long trip, where he connected with many of Gandhi’s relatives. 

10. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, welcomed four children 

King married Coretta Scott King on June 18, 1953, on the lawn of her parent’s residence. 

The married couple went on to welcome four children into their family; Martin Luther King III, Dexter, Yolanda and Bernice.

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