Martin Luther King, Jr.: 11 Facts That May Surprise You

Martin Luther King Day

Every third Monday of January, the entire country takes time off to honor the life of an American preacher, activist, and leader of the US Civil Rights Movement from the mid-50s until his assassination in 1968. But how much do we really know about Martin Luther King, Jr., the man and his life?

We all know about his non-violent protests and his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. We all know about his winning the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting racial inequality through peaceful means. And sadly, we know about the violent death he met in the hands of an assassin. But Dr. King led a varied and multi-faceted life – and here are some interesting Martin Luther King, Jr. facts that you may not have known:

1. He is the only non-president to be honored with a national holiday and a memorial in Washington, DC’s National Mall.

2. His name was originally Michael King, as was his father’s. However, the senior King changed both his and his son’s name to Martin Luther, in tribute to the German theologian. The change occurred after a trip to Germany in 1931 when King, Jr. was two years old.

3. Almost every major city in the United States has a street named after Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, today more than 900 streets in the country are named after him.

4. Besides receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, a Congressional Gold medal, and a Medal of Freedom, Dr. King was also the recipient of a (posthumous) Grammy Award – for the Best Spoken Word Album in 1971.

5. He traveled more than six million miles and spoke more than 2,500 times in his struggle against inequality and segregation.

6. In King’s iconic “I Have a Dream Speech” in the Lincoln Memorial, he almost left out the “I Have a Dream” section (upon an adviser’s suggestion), but later decided to include it.

7. Famous for his oratory skills, Dr. King nevertheless got a C for public speaking during his first year in seminary school!

8. The Montgomery Bus Boycott he led in 1955 (a response to Rosa Parks’ refusal to leave her bus seat) lasted more than a year! At that time, he was virtually unknown and was picked as the movement’s voice by the boycott leaders because he was a newcomer.

9. He traveled to India in 1959 to study Mahatma Gandhi’s principles on non-violence, which greatly impacted his fight against racial inequality.

10. Dr. King, who entered college at the age of 15, did not originally intend to become a Baptist minister (as was his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather). However, he was convinced to do so by Morehouse College president Benjamin Mays and was ordained before graduating with a degree in sociology.

11. King fought for more than just civil rights. Toward the end of his life, he campaigned as well against poverty and the American involvement in Vietnam.

“Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last.” This famous quote from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech clearly point to the struggle for freedom as the overriding theme of his life’s efforts.

Green Smoke, makers of the leading brand of electronic cigarettes that let smokers have it all – taste, quality, and freedom to smoke virtually anywhere – is privileged to honor Dr. King on his special day.

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