Martin Luther King Jr. was a social activist and Baptist minister who played a key role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. King sought equality and human rights for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and all victims of injustice through peaceful protest. He was the driving force behind watershed events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1963 March on Washington, which helped bring about such landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and is remembered each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a U.S. federal holiday since 1986.
Interesting Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.
- King’s father was born Michael King, but changed his name in 1931 in reverence to the German theologian Martin Luther.
- After 12-year-old Martin learned that his grandmother had died from a heart attack in May 1941, he was so distraught that he jumped from a second story window of their house.
- Martin was almost assassinated before many of his famous civil rights accomplishments in the early 1960s. Izola Ware Curry approach Martin at a book signing for “Stride Towards Freedom.” After receiving confirmation that he was indeed Martin Luther King Jr. she exclaimed “I’ve been looking for you for five years” and stabbed Martin in the chest with a letter opener. The blade pressed against his aorta and took several hours of careful surgery to remove.
- Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 at the age of 35. This made him the youngest male recipient of the prestigious award. He donated the entire prize of $54,123 (now equivalent to $400,000) to the civil rights movement. Martin won dozens more awards for his work including the Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, and a Grammy. The Grammy was for Best Spoken Word Album, awarded in 1971 for King’s “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.”
- Martin Luther King Jr. was targeted by the FBI for being “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.” Records of Martin taken by the FBI are held in the National Achieve but remain sealed from public access until 2027.
Quotes By Martin Luther King Jr.
- Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
- Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.
- Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
- Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
- The time is always right to do what is right.
- I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
- The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
- In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
- Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?