Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Five interesting facts about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 4, 2013 by NCC Staff


Constitution Daily looks back at the inspirational story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and uncovers some interesting facts about the late civil rights leader’s life.


Dr. King was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929, and died in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Dr. King’s legacy extends into today and he remains one of the most discussed leaders of our time.


Among that discussion are some interesting facts that lend some insight into the man.


Fact 1: Dr. King got a C in public speaking at seminary school. Dr. King’s father, a preacher in Atlanta, thought his son was the best speaker he’d ever seen, before he went away to seminary school. But in his first year of seminary school in Chester, Pennsylvania, one of Dr. King’s professors gave him a C in a public speaking course! In his third and final year, Dr. King was valedictorian with straight A’s.


Fact 2: While at Crozer Theological Seminary, Dr. King was introduced to the teachings and philosophies of Mohandas Gandhi. Dr. King entered Crozer in the fall of 1948, after Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948 in India. In an interview, Dr. King said he attended a lecture from the president of Howard University given in Philadelphia about Gandhi, and he immediately became “deeply influenced” by the philosophy of nonviolence.


Fact 3: Dr. King was virtually unknown when he was named as spokesman for the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. He had recently arrived in Alabama, and the leaders of the boycott, which was sparked by Rosa Parks’ decision to keep her bus seat, wanted a newcomer to be the public voice of the movement. There were concerns that some rivalries within the movement could present problems, and Dr. King was picked as a bipartisan leader.


Fact 4.  Dr. King apparently improvised parts of the “I Have A Dream” speech in August 1963, including its title passage. Clarence B. Jones worked on the draft of the speech, which was being revised up to the time Dr. King took the podium. He says Dr. King’s remarks were up in the air about 12 hours before he spoke, and the “dream” reference wasn’t in the speech. Dr. King later added it live when singer Mahalia Jackson prompted him to speak about the “dream.” In June 1963, Dr. King had talked about his dream in a speech in Detroit.


Fact 5. When Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, at the time he was the youngest Peace Prize winner ever, at the age of 35. Currently, Tawakkol Karman of Yemen in the youngest winner on record; she was 32 when she won the prize in 2011. His acceptance speech in Norway included the famous statement, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”


Other Stories About Dr. King


King’s indignant message in “Letter from Birmingham Jail”


10 famous quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Five interesting facts about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr


Constitution Hall Pass: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.a


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