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Today, we celebrate the birthday and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Many people are familiar with Martin’s name and his association with the Civil Rights Movement, but here are 10 things that you may not know about him.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.’s original name was Michael until his father changed both of their names to Martin.
  • He was a middle child.
  • At age 3, one of Martin’s good friends was white. They played together constantly until age 6 when they went to different schools. Then his friend’s dad said they couldn’t play together anymore.
  • Martin skipped two grades and graduated high school at age 15.
  • He was influenced by Henry David Thoreau’s decision not to pay his taxes as a nonviolent protest against slavery.
  • In 1948, Martin graduated from Morehouse College at age 19.
  • He entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania as one of only six black student out of one hundred students total. He graduated at the top of his class.
  • At Crozer, he learned about Mahatma Gandhi and his peaceful protests.
  • In 1959, Martin and his wife, Coretta, went to India and visited places where Gandhi went. He was struck by Gandhi’s commitment to nonviolence when Gandhi said, “If you are hit, don’t hit back; even if they shoot at you, don’t shoot back. Just keep moving.”
  • After Martin was arrested for driving in Georgia with an Alabama driver’s license, his followers sought help from Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy, both of whom were running for president. Nixon refused to engage the issue, but Kennedy and his brother, Robert, vowed to do everything in their power to get Martin free.

9780448447230If you want to know more about Martin Luther King, Jr., you can read Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Bonnie Bader. That’s where these facts came from, but there’s a lot more to Martin’s story that I didn’t list here.

Happy birthday, Dr. King!

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