Dr. Martin Luther King is a famed social activist, a key driver of the Civil
Rights Movement, an icon of racial equality and a symbol of peace in the United
States. He influenced the world through his model of social reform and his
suggestions for creating racial equality are useful guides for various countries
struggling with issues of inequality as well as racial prejudice. Known for his
iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, the man continues to shape ideas of equality for
all people in the United States and internationally. He fought for the rights of
the African American community and for equal rights regardless of race,
emphasizing the value of a person's humanity rather than his or her skin color.
His valiant efforts were a major success and milestone in the formation of civil
rights in the United States.
Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall and many others paved
the way for racial equality in America. King is widely known as the figurehead
of the Civil Rights Movement through various social protests, many speeches and
other forms of activism both in public speeches as well as in written form. He
is a famous figure in recent American history that is known worldwide but there
are still some more obscure things about the man that are not so commonly known
that illuminate his character as a valiant leader, a powerful social activist
and a brilliant scholar.
15) Like most
people, Martin Luther King had a favorite meal.
People tend to forget about the humanity of major public figures, almost
mythologizing them at times. Public figures have their individual personality
traits that define them outside of their social appearances and in the case of
Martin Luther King, one of those traits would be his favorite meal. Martin
Luther King's favorite meal consisted of a combination plate of fried chicken,
black eyed peas, collard greens and corn bread, a notable Southern style meal.
Though eating does not connect to his social activities, it certainly does show
his more personal side by shedding some light onto the man in his private family
14) Martin Luther
King paid homage to Gandhi by visiting his place of birth.
Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi’s methods of activism and social
reform, most notably in the aspect of pacifism. Using Gandhi's philosophy in
line with his own, King developed an identity as a pacifist and emphasized
nonviolent resistance as a means to achieving racial equality in the United
States of America. As such, Martin Luther King felt the need to visit Gandhi’s
birthplace as a form of homage to pay respect to the man. King decided to visit
where the man lived to get a better understanding of his philosophy by traveling
to India and walking in the footsteps of his predessor. Martin was moved to
continue in his activism for civil rights, finding fresh inspiration in the life
of Gandhi and the place from which his ideas originated.
13) Martin Luther
King was a pastor of a church.
Martin Luther King was not only an activist for civil rights but he was also the
pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church’s in 1954. LSU libraries document that he
served this position and led the congregation from 1960 until 1968, the year in
which he died. His father ran the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther
king Jr. sang in the choir during his youth then grew up to carry on the family
tradition of preaching. His family background is filled with this religious
involvement and it certainly inspired much of his social movement along with his
goal for peace as well as equality.
12) Martin Luther
King was a fan of Star Trek. He is the reason Nichelle Nichols stayed on the
Martin Luther King enjoyed the science fiction television show Star Trek and he
also saw the importance of the show for the Civil Rights Movement in its
representation of race relations, specifically that there were African American
characters in positions of leadership. Nichelle Nichols, known for her role as
Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek, stated that Martin Luther King was the reason she
stayed on the show when she was about to move in another direction. Nichols
spoke with King about the idea of leaving the show and moving to Broadway; he
suggested that she stay with the cast of Star Trek rather than pursue a Broadway
He expressed to the actress that her role on television was highly important
to the perception of African Americans in society and she was a figure of
authority that could be emulated in society. Her role stood as a symbol for the
African American community because her position on board the USS Enterprise
could potentially reflect the roles for African Americans as leaders in the
United States. As a lieutenant on the show, she represented a strong character
and role model for the Civil Rights Movement. King's words moved her to stay on
with the show and she served as a role model for many viewers.
Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura
11) Martin Luther
King was not only present at the premiere festivities of the film Gone with the
Wind; he performed with a choir to commemorate it.
Though Martin Luther King is most famous for his public speeches in his adult
life, a young King was a performer. Martin Luther King did a vocal performance
for the commemoration of the release of the famous film "Gone with the Wind".
This performance was sung by a young boys' choir in Ebenezer Baptist church,
which was his father's church. Martin and the boys choir sang in celebration of
the film's release as part of a several day festival in honor of the film.
Unfortunately, this film and its celebrations were not free of the racial
tensions of the time. That being the case, African Americans were not permitted
to attend the actual screening of the film due to segregation. Prominent
actresses as Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen were not even permitted into
the film, despite their contributions to the film as major characters. Such
being the case, Martin Luther King and the boys in the choir were not permitted
Gone With the Wind pre-release poster
10) Martin Luther
King was under secret government surveillance.
The government most certainly knew of the movement that Martin Luther King was
leading as an activist in a time of transition in the United States. His
reputation was well known as he grew in prominence in the public field and with
all eyes on him, it is no surprise that the government's ears would also turn
towards him. The FBI had King's home telephone and the hotel rooms where he
stayed bugged between the years of 1962 and 1968. They would monitor his calls
and conversations, trying to find something that they could blackmail the man
with in order to prevent him from bringing about his goal of social equality.
These recordings included private conversations and a possible affair. The
government efforts represent the trials and tribulations that he had to pass
through because of the controversy of his movement in a culture that didn't
acknowledge his ideas of equality for all races.
Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI during MLK Jr.'s
9) Martin Luther
King was a suicide survivor. Multiple times.
Martin Luther King was surrounded by stressful situations and his mental health
suffered during his time in the public eye. Through the Civil Rights Movement,
he maintained a very strong image as a firm speaker and impressive leader but in
his past he struggled with the will to live. Martin Luther King's grandmother,
Jennie, suffered a heart attack and passed away when King was only twelve years
old. This unfortunate event left such an impression on King that he attempted to
end his life at a very young age by jumping through a window on the second story
of his family's home, which he survived. Unfortunately, this is not the only
time Martin Luther King faced the issue of suicide in his lifetime.
Reportedly, Martin Luther King received a letter from the FBI with the intent
of causing him to commit suicide. The letter accused King of misrepresenting
African Americans in his social endeavors, leading a fraudulent movement that
would ultimately amount to nothing and being an evil detriment in general. The
letter closed with a not so subtle suggestion that there is only one way out for
the man and that he must take it to right the wrongs that he allegedly
committed. Fortunately, King realized the very suspicious nature of this letter
and saw through it.
The package that this letter came in also contained audio recordings of
Martin Luther King's possible affair and other unsavory instances of private
conversation that would ultimately serve as blackmail. If the package contents
were released to the public then his reputation as a notable public figure would
be tainted, jeopardizing the Civil Rights Movement. King realized the FBI had
bugged the room and kept him under surveillance where ever he went, they were
spying on him illegally. With such a strong reputation in the controversial
movement, it is no surprise that the FBI kept tabs on him. Those who were
against the movement wanted him to fail, even if that meant manipulative illegal
tactics. Nevertheless, King caught them in their own shameful game and avoided a
possible suicide again.
Picture of MLK Jr. on the bottom right and Jennie behind
Letter from FBI to MLK Jr.
8) Martin Luther
King was Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1964.
Time magazine in 1964 named Martin Luther King as Man of the Year, putting his
portrait on the cover in honor of the movement he was leading and there was much
significance in this action on the part of the publication. It commemorated the
Civil Rights Movement in mass media and showed how prominent it had become in
the eye of the American public. The magazine cover was present on the news, in
the newsstands and many other media. The movement continued to gain recognition
because of the magazines move and this was a major step for King. This
recognition made King the first African American to hold the title of Man of the
Year, making the African American community receive even more publicity in
social activism and furthered the progress of the Civil Rights Movement.
7) Martin Luther
King's activism extended beyond the Civil Rights Movement to other forms of
Though Martin Luther King is best known for his role in the Civil Rights
Movement, he also spoke out against the Vietnam War. King was antiwar, very much
inspired by Gandhi. As a pacifist, King believed these actions of US involvement
in Asia were misdirected and potentially harmful. One of his main problems with
the war, aside from the general violence, was the funding. He was concerned that
the Vietnam War was causing the United States to divert funds from social
institutions that were designed to help the poor, especially within the African
King speaking to an anti-Vietnam war rally at the
University of Minnesota
6) Parts of the
famous "I Have a Dream" speech are believed to have been improvised when Martin
Luther King presented it.
The "I Have a Dream" speech is one of the most iconic, most famous and most
important speeches delivered in the history of the United States. It stands as
an important symbol and the manifesto central to the ideology of the Civil
Rights Movement. The speech explained exactly what Martin Luther King
envisioned the United States would become in the future, a place that would
accept all people regardless of the color of their skin. Its importance for
progress in racial equality is still felt to this very day and it continues to
shape the ideas of equality in the United States. The speech was partially
improvised by King, especially the famous portion from which the speech derives
its famous title. Gallo notes particular actions within the video recording that
indicates King was not reading directly from his papers in certain parts of the
speech but was improvising at these moments instead.
In fact, it is notable how little he looks at his written documents during
the latter portion of the speech by facing the crowd instead as he addresses
them. In a moment of pause, one can see in the recording that he actually moves
the notes he has taken aside and he continues to speak directly to the audience
instead of looking at his notes for reference. Such is a testament to the
ability of the man as an orator, a master of language, and his ability to reach
out to the American public. His articulation led to one of the most famous
speeches in American history, even if portions of it were not planned and given
on the spot.
MLK Jr. giving his famous speech
5) As of 2013, there
are more than 900 streets named after Martin Luther King in the United States.
The name of Martin Luther King does not only live on in the pages of American
history book but it actively lives on in city life nationwide. The name of King
is seen throughout the country on streets that commemorate him for his
achievements in the Civil Rights Movement and there are more than 900 streets in
the United States, including the US territory of Puerto Rico, named after Martin
Luther King. King was born in Atlanta, Georgia and the strong movements led by
this man had very strong effects in this area; it is not surprising that 70
percent of these streets pave the way of the Southeast. His name can be spotted
in the city from coast to coast, reminding everyone of his influence and the
change he inspired in the nation.
4) This tradition of
naming streets after Martin Luther King has extended beyond the United States.
Martin Luther King's name naturally strikes associations with social progress
and attempts of living in a world of peace as well as racial equality. Such
being the case, it is no surprise that his name would carry internationally.
Jerusalem has a Martin Luther King Street in honor of the man and the sign is
written in a combination of English as well as Hebrew. This bilingual sign
demonstrates a crossover between cultures, a sense of international fraternity
and the lengths to which King's message has traveled. Clearly, Martin Luther
King's social movement transcends the US border and has strong resonance in
other places worldwide. His name stands as a symbol in Israel for a peaceful
future, especially in the recent times of turmoil and strife.
It was not until recently that MLK Day became an observed holiday in all of the
United States, Utah was the last state to adopt the federal holiday and Illinois
was the first. The holiday was initially conceived in 1973, fifteen years after
Martin Luther King’s assassination and death. By 1989, forty four out of the
fifty states observed the holiday but it was not until 2000 that the remainder
followed suit. This means that it took a gap of twenty seven years before MLK
Day was acknowledged nationwide as an officially observed national holiday.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day signed into effect by Ronald
Tomb of MLK Jr. and his Wife, Coretta Scott King
2) Among various
academic accomplishments, Martin Luther King holds multiple honorary degrees.
Martin Luther King studied Sociology and Systematic Theology as a scholar, he
eventually received his Ph.D. in 1955. After he received this degree, he was
awarded many honorary degrees from many US institutions and some from foreign
universities. Among the list are multiple degrees with the titles of Doctor of
Law, Doctor of Humanities, Doctor of Divinity and others. Some of the
universities that conferred these awards are Boston University, University of
New Castle Upon Tyne and Yale University. His multiple degrees are a testament
to his scholarly merit, his lasting impression in as well as outside of the
academy and his influence nationwide.
1) Martin Luther
King was not his name originally.
Though Martin Luther King became famous under that name, he was originally named
Michael Luther King and it was only later at the age of 5 that his name was
changed to Martin. Martin Luther King’s name was not a choice on his own part
but rather that of his father, who was likewise originally named Michael King.
Both father and son became Martin after Martin Luther King, Sr. traveled to
Germany and learned of the founder of Lutheranism, Martin Luther. His
inspiration from this trip led him to change both of their names in honor of
this religious figure who is most famous for his ninety five theses, a document
challenging the Catholic Church’s teachings. Such a name change for the two
contained symbolic ties for Martin Luther King, Sr. as a Baptist, which has some
ties to Martin Luther’s call for reformation in the church.
Though Martin Luther King is most famous for the inspirational charge he led
in the Civil Rights Movement, his legacy lives on in many other aspects of
American society. He reminds the American public of the fight for equality, the
struggles of the past and the potentials of the future. He was a social figure,
a scholar, a religious leader and most importantly, a human. His merits are
great and his achievements are numerous, he is very much an inspiration to
Whether it was his personal taste in the kitchen or his interest in Star Trek,
the man is certainly relatable to the American public. He serves as an
inspiration, a model to work after and a legacy that lives on in the
extraordinary work he did for the Civil Rights Movement. His social activity
still resonates to this day in American society, continuing to shape the United
States and cultivate social revolution around the world.
References: 15) Like most people, Martin Luther King had a favorite meal.
RL Reeves, Jr., at Ace Weekly
14) Martin Luther King paid homage to Gandhi by visiting his place of
13) Martin Luther King was a pastor of a church.
North Georgia Editor-in-Chief Larry Worthy
11) Martin Luther King was not only present at the premiere
festivities of the film Gone with the Wind; he performed with a choir to
Editor-in-chief Larry Worthy of About North Georgia
10) Martin Luther King was under secret government surveillance.
9) Martin Luther King was a suicide survivor. Multiple times.
8) Martin Luther King was Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1964.
7) Martin Luther King's activism extended beyond the Civil Rights
Movement to other forms of protest.
6) Parts of the famous "I Have a Dream" speech are believed to have
been improvised when Martin Luther King presented it.
Carmine Gallo at Forbes
5) As of 2013, there are more than 900 streets named after Martin
Luther King in the United States.
the research of UT Geography Professor Derek Alderman
3) It took until the year 2000 for MLK Day to be observed by all of
2) Among various academic accomplishments, Martin Luther King holds
multiple honorary degrees.
1) Martin Luther King was not his name originally.
The Washington Times