Facts about Martin Luther King Jr


10 Interesting Facts about Martin Luther King Jr. You Never Knew

Blog / Young Leaders Blog

Share :

Do you want to learn some amazing facts about Martin Luther King Jr.? Perhaps you know him as a civil rights leader and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Furthermore, he fought for equality and justice with nonviolence and powerful words. Notably, his “I Have a Dream” speech is famous around the world. However, these are some of the facts about Martin Luther King Jr. that most people know.

But there is much more to his life and legacy than these well-known facts. In this blog, we will reveal some hidden aspects of his life and legacy. You will discover 10 interesting facts about Martin Luther King Jr. that you may not have heard before. Are you ready to be amazed? Let’s begin.

Here Are 10 Surprising Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.

1. His Birth Name Was Michael, Not Martin

The Rev. Michael King or M.L. King was King’s father. He was a prominent minister in Atlanta and the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church. In 1934, his church sent him on a trip around the world. Then he sailed to Berlin for a Baptist World Congress. Hitler had become chancellor a year before King arrived. There, he saw the rise of Nazi Germany. He also toured the country where Martin Luther challenged the Catholic Church in 1517.

Luther’s 95 Theses sparked the Protestant Reformation, which split Western Christianity. Consequently, King Sr. came back home in August 1934 as a different man, as noted by Clayborne Carson, director of the King Institute. Moreover, he and his son changed their names that year. However, this is one of the facts about Martin Luther King Jr. that no one has full clarity on, as nobody knows exactly what triggered King Sr.’s mind.

2. He Entered College When He Was Just 15

Entered College When He Was Just 15

He was a gifted and talented student who had a passion for learning. King mastered the school curriculum quickly and easily. He skipped two grades in elementary school and one grade in middle school. Martin Luther King completed high school when he was only 15 years old. He had a high IQ and scored well on standardized tests. Several prestigious colleges accepted King after he applied to them.

Consequently, he chose to attend Harvard University, one of the best institutions in the world. As the youngest student in his class, King faced many challenges and opportunities during his academic journey. Ultimately, he graduated from college with honors at the age of 19, marking one of the most surprising facts about Martin Luther King.

3. Martin Luther King Has Authored 5 Books

Martin Luther King was not only a civil rights leader, but also a prolific writer. He authored five books in his lifetime, covering various topics related to his vision, philosophy, and activism. Additionally, his first book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” published in 1958, recounts his role in the Montgomery bus boycott and outlines his principles of nonviolence. Following this, King’s second book, “The Measure of a Man,” published in 1959, explores the ethical and spiritual dimensions of human nature.

Furthermore, his third book, “Strength to Love,” published in 1963, is a collection of sermons that emphasize the power of love and faith in overcoming injustice. Subsequently, King’s fourth book, “Why We Can’t Wait,” published in 1964, explains the historical and political context of the Birmingham campaign and the need for urgent action.  Lastly, his fifth and final book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? published in 1967, analyzes the state of the civil rights movement and proposes a global strategy for social change. This is one of the facts about Martin Luther King Jr. that very few people know about.

4. King’s Mother Was Assassinated By Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr.

King’s Mother Was Assassinated By Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr.

Alberta King, the mother of Martin Luther King Jr., was also a victim of a violent death. She played the organ at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 30, 1974. Suddenly, a man named Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. entered the church and started shooting. He killed Alberta King and another church member, Edward Boykin. He also wounded a third person, Jimmie Mitchell. Chenault, a 23-year-old black man, asserted that he was on a mission to kill all Christians.

He said he chose Alberta King because she was a prominent Christian leader’s mother. Authorities arrested and sentenced the king to death, but later commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. He died of a stroke in 1995. Alberta King’s assassination was a tragic and senseless act that shocked and saddened the nation.

5. Julia Roberts’ Special Connection To The King Family

Julia Roberts, the famous Hollywood actress, was born on October 28, 1967, in Atlanta, Georgia. Her parents, Walter and Betty Roberts, ran a theater school called the Actors and Writers Workshop. They welcomed the children of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, who were looking for a place to learn acting. The two families became friends and supported each other. When Julia Roberts was born, her parents could not afford the hospital bill. The King family generously paid for it as a gift.

Julia Roberts revealed this story in an interview with Gayle King in 2022. She said she was grateful for the kindness and influence of the King family. Julia Roberts’ words moved Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, who confirmed the story. This is one of the most amusing facts about Martin Luther King Jr.

6. King’s Previous Speech At The Lincoln Memorial

King’s Previous Speech At The Lincoln Memorial

The 1963 speech that made King famous was not his first time speaking at the Lincoln Memorial. He had spoken there before, on May 17, 1957, during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom. This event marked the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. King delivered a speech titled “Give Us the Ballot”, in which he demanded voting rights for African Americans.

He said, “Give us the ballot, and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights”. He also warned that “the nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around”. King urged the audience to “go back to your communities as members of the international association for the advancement of creative dissatisfaction”. About 25,000 people attended the rally, the largest civil rights demonstration until then. The audience warmly received the King’s speech, but it did not carry the same impact as his later speech in 1963.

7. The Many Many Arrests Of Martin Luther King Jr.

King was arrested nearly 30 times for fighting for justice and equality. Martin Luther King Jr. led peaceful protests, boycotts, and marches to demand the rights of African Americans. He also spoke out against war, poverty, and violence. He inspired millions of people with his vision and courage. But he also faced many enemies and obstacles. The police, the government, and white supremacists often targeted King. They arrested him for various reasons, including loitering, parading without a permit, disobeying a police order, and demonstrating without a permit.

King spent time in jail, where he wrote some of his most famous letters and speeches. He did not fear arrest but saw it as a way to draw attention to the injustice he opposed. Martin Luther King  said, “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is, in reality, expressing the highest respect for law.” This is one of the facts about Martin Luther King Jr. that tells us how dedicated he was to social justice.

8. King Has Survived Many Assassination Attempts


Martin Luther King Jr. Has Survived Many Assassination Attempts. King survived several attempts to kill him, such as:

In 1958, a woman named Izola Curry stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener at a book signing in Harlem. The hospital rushed him into surgery to remove the blade. He forgave his attacker and stated that she was mentally ill.

In 1960, someone planted a bomb in his car in Atlanta. Although he wasn’t in the car when it exploded, his brother and a friend suffered injuries. The authorities never arrested anyone for the crime.

In 1964, a man named Walter Breuning fired a rifle at him from a window in Chicago. He missed him by inches and hit a wall behind him. The police arrested him, and he confessed to the shooting.

In 1965, a man named James Earl Ray tried to shoot him in Selma, Alabama. A group of snipers, including him, planned to assassinate him during the Selma to Montgomery march. He failed to get a clear shot and fled the scene.

9. The Prophetic Words Of Martin Luther King Jr.

King’s Last Public Speech Foretold His Death. He was in Memphis, Tennessee, to support the strike of the city’s Black garbage workers. On April 3, 1968, he spoke at Mason Temple Church. He told the audience that he had seen the Promised Land. King said he might not get there with them, but he was not afraid of anything. He said, “I’ve seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Martin Luther King also recalled the time he was stabbed in New York, 10 years earlier.

He said if he had sneezed, he would have died. King said he was glad he did not sneeze because he had witnessed many great moments in the civil rights movement.

King thanked God for allowing him to live until that day. James Earl Ray shot and killed him at the Lorraine Motel the next day. His speech was later known as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”. It was his last public speech and his final prophecy. This is one of the facts about Martin Luther King that very few people know.

10. King’s Family Filed A Civil Case Against The Govt. And Won

King’s Family Filed A Civil Case Against The Govt. And Won

After his death, the King family filed a civil case against the government and won. They sued Loyd Jowers, a Memphis café owner, who claimed he was part of a conspiracy to kill Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. He said he was paid $100,000 by a mobster to hire a gunman and provide a rifle. He also implicated the Memphis police, the FBI, and the CIA in the plot.

The King family believed that James Earl Ray, who was convicted of the murder, was innocent and framed.

They hired William Pepper, a lawyer and friend of King, to represent them in the lawsuit. The trial lasted for four weeks in 1999 and involved over 70 witnesses and thousands of documents. The jury of six whites and six blacks reached a unanimous verdict: Jowers and other unknown co-conspirators, including government agencies, were liable for King’s assassination. The King family was awarded the symbolic amount of $100, which they had requested.


Martin Luther King Jr. left an indelible mark on history through his impactful contributions. His eloquent speeches, including the iconic “I Have a Dream,” resonated globally.  His legacy endures through his dedication to justice, equality, and love. These interesting facts about Martin Luther King Jr. will continue to inspire generations toward a better, more inclusive future. We hope you enjoyed reading this blog. Keep reading The USA Leaders for more such content.

Sushmita Nibandhe

ALSO READ: Are You Aware of These 10 Facts About Benjamin Franklin?


The USA Leaders

The USA Leaders is an illuminating digital platform that drives the conversation about the distinguished American leaders disrupting technology with an unparalleled approach. We are a source of round-the-clock information on eminent personalities who chose unconventional paths for success.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

And never miss any updates, because every opportunity matters..

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join The Community Of More Than 80,000+ Informed Professionals