5 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is a day set aside to remember and honor late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. MLK Day is commemorated on the third Monday in January each year. Here are 5 surprising facts you didn't know about this widely respected activist and man of peace...


His First Name Wasn’t Martin The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.

The FBI Aggressively Monitored Him Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was so obsessed with King that he bugged his home and offices while trying to tie his activism to Communism, which was later discredited. In fact, two days after delivering his earth-shattering “I Have A Dream” speech, King was described as “the most dangerous” at least “from the standpoint of … national security” in an FBI assessment. In short, he was basically on what would be considered today as a terrorist watch list for speaking out against racial discrimination in America.


He is a Grammy Winner Even after his untimely death, King was still picking up huge honors. One of them was a posthumous Grammy for his speech Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam. After being the youngest man to ever win the Nobel Peace prize in 1964, he would also be one of the youngest to posthumously win the Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honors an American civilian can receive.

His Mother Was Also Assassinated On June 30, 1974, as 69-year-old Alberta Williams King played the organ at a Sunday service inside Ebenezer Baptist Church, Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. rose from the front pew, drew two pistols and began to fire shots. One of the bullets struck and killed King, who died steps from where her son had preached nonviolence. The deranged gunman said that Christians were his enemy and that although he had received divine instructions to kill King’s father, who was in the congregation, he killed King’s mother instead because she was closer. The shooting also left a church deacon dead.

King Was Imprisoned Nearly 30 Times According to the King Center, the civil rights leader went to jail 29 times. He was arrested for acts of civil disobedience and on trumped-up charges, such as when he was jailed in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone.