U.K.-born Paul has worked as a librarian and bookseller since graduating from university. He now works as a freelance writer in Florida.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (also known as M.L.K. for short) is regarded as one of the greatest American leaders of all time. His impact on the USA and wider world is still felt long after his assassination in 1968.
Even though he was a great orator, civil rights advocate, and leader, King's most well-known achievement was transforming civil rights in America by using nonviolent methods of activism. Read on for twenty facts about Dr. King.
20 Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.
- Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.
- King’s father was a Baptist minister and his mother was a school teacher.
- He is best known in the USA and internationally for his part in advancing the civil rights movement by using nonviolent methods of protest.
- King was a highly educated man with bachelor's degrees in sociology and divinity, and a Ph.D. in systematic theology.
- While studying for his Ph.D. at Boston University, MLK was mentored by theologian and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman, who was a big influence on him.
- He met and married Coretta Scott, a music student and aspiring singer, in 1953. The couple had four children, Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott, and Bernice.
- In 1955 Martin Luther King Jr. led a boycott of buses in Montgomery, Alabama after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. The Montgomery Bus Boycott went on for 381 days, but eventually led to the abolishment of racial segregation on public buses in Alabama.
- In May, 1957, King gave his famous "Give Us the Ballot" speech during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington.
- King’s most famous speech is his "I Have a Dream" speech. He performed it in 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. to a crowd of over a quarter of a million people.
- Although King was a great man, he certainly was not a saint. Numerous accusations of extramarital affairs and womanizing were made against him, and he admitted in private that he had weaknesses in that area of his life. Also, during the 1980s, an investigation discovered that parts of King’s Ph.D. dissertation had been plagiarized.
- King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his role in opposing racial segregation and discrimination through nonviolent protest and other means.
- On March 7, 1965, King was involved with organizing a march from Selma to Montgomery to protest the murder of a protester who was killed by an Alabama state trooper during the previous month. The march was blocked by state troopers and police officers who brutally beat the participants. The event, which came to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” was broadcast on news stations across the USA, and it fostered sympathy for the civil rights movement.
- His last great speech is known as the "I've Been to the Mountain Top" address, and it was delivered the day before he died on April 3, 1968.
- On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. He was shot by James Earl Ray.
- Some people have alleged that King’s murder was part of a larger conspiracy and that Ray was just a scapegoat.
- King’s favorite song was "Take My hand, Precious Lord." The song was sung at his funeral by his friend, Mahalia Jackson.
- Towards the end of his life, King had switched his focus from civil rights to campaigns to end poverty and stop the Vietnam War. Many of his liberal allies felt alienated by his stance on the war.
- The Lorraine Motel, where he was killed, is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.
- After his death, King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.
- In 1983 a new U.S. federal holiday dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. was signed into law by Ronald Reagan. The holiday was first observed three years later in 1986. At first, some states were reluctant to adopt the new holiday, but since the year 2000, all 50 states have celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
10 Quotes From Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
- "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable...Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."
- "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
- "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
- "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
- "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
- "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
- "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
- "One of the greatest casualties of the war in Vietnam is the great society...shot down on the battlefield of Vietnam."
- "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality...I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
King's Transforming Legacy
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy has experienced a shift in American culture over the decades. While he is currently regarded as an iconic civil rights advocate, and he has been viewed as such since before his assassination, some argue that his activism and quotes have been misrepresented in a manner that softens his perspective on racism.
King's quotes are often shared or presented to solely imply that prejudice is wrong, but his quotes about holding those with privilege accountable for change are often ignored. King didn't just believe racism and race-based discrimination were wrong, he also wanted people with power to actively abolish that sort of oppression.
King once said, "“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will, and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters…then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”
The aforementioned quote articulates King's insistence that segregation and violence needed to be eliminated without hesitation. King stressed that lives and the well-being of oppressed people were constantly at risk until those in power took responsibility to address and amend the issue.
As well as his views on racism, he also had a wider opposition to damaging social power structures, economic inequality and poverty, and opposed the Vietnam War during his lifetime.
Historians, cultural critics, and political pundits have also noted how MLK was feared and disliked by those in power (including politicians, police officers, etc.) while he was alive, and how they've only embraced his work and perspectives in a shallow sense after his death.
Many people have questioned the sincerity of those who quote Dr. King posthumously when they actively worked against him and his efforts while he was alive.
- Benbow, C. (January 15th, 2018). The Gentrification of MLK: How America Intentionally Misrepresents Our Radical Civil Rights Leader. Essence.
- Newkirk II, V.R. (2018). The Whitewashing of King's Assasination. The Atlantic.
- Martin Luther King Jr. (November 19th, 2018). Retrieved from Wikipedia.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Did James Earl Ray escape or not?
Read More From Owlcation
Answer: Straight after the assassination, Ray drove to Atlanta. He then picked up his belongings and went to Canada. After hiding out for over a month, he acquired a false Canadian passport and flew to England. After a brief stay in Portugal, he went back to London and was eventually arrested at London Heathrow Airport trying to fly to Belgium. The date was June 8, 1968, two months after King's death.
Question: Did Martin Luther King Jr have any children?
Answer: Yes, King and his wife, Coretta Scott had four children: Yolanda King (1955–2007), Martin Luther King III (b. 1957), Dexter Scott King (b. 1961), and Bernice King (b. 1963).
Question: Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.?
Answer: King was shot dead by James Earl Ray with a single shot fired from a Remington rifle. King was standing on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Ray fired from the rooming house opposite. Ray had a history of criminal behavior, including armed robbery. He had a strong prejudice against black people and intended to flee to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where there was white minority rule at the time, following the killing of King.
Question: What was MLK's middle name?
Answer: MLK was named "Michael King" at birth, and so he had no middle name. However, his father later changed his son's name to "Martin Luther King Jr." and his middle name from thereon was "Luther".
Question: How did Martin Luther King Jr. Day become a holiday?
Answer: The idea of a federal holiday to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King was first proposed in 1979. However, the federal holiday wasn't signed into law until 1983, following a successful public campaign. The holiday came into effect three years later, although not all states chose to observe it until 1991.
Question: Why did James Earl Ray kill Martin Luther King Jr.?
Answer: Ray was a white supremacist who openly admired Adolf Hitler, so there was almost certainly a racial motive, but why he specifically targeted King and why he did it at that time is not known.
© 2014 Paul Goodman
alex on April 27, 2020:
this is so helpful
Kitty on April 16, 2020:
This is really helping me with my homeschooling assignment Thanks!
bryhana parker on February 27, 2020:
I will like to lean more about martin luther king jr
me cool on February 25, 2020:
We are doing martin luther king jr. jeopardy so this is quite useful
colten on February 11, 2020:
This has helped me so much. thank you
MLK on January 29, 2020:
This helped so much on my essay about him OMG
Mlk on January 26, 2020:
So helpful thanks
this is amzing helped so much in my history day report. on January 24, 2020:
this is amzing helped so much in my history day report.
beanos on January 22, 2020:
i love this it helped me do my report
Yes on January 22, 2020:
This is amazing
Nani on January 22, 2020:
iory on January 16, 2020:
not so satisfiyed
verry helpful thanks on January 15, 2020:
verry helpful thanks
iory on January 08, 2020:
Sam on December 16, 2019:
yeet on December 10, 2019:
This very helpful
iiMixedx on October 30, 2019:
i really how they gave us so much info. Have never seen that much info in my life!!!!!
a school kid on October 25, 2019:
lmao im using this to help me do this a project in school
Ok on October 24, 2019:
In School now helped a lot
student on October 08, 2019:
this helped so much
Dddddddddd on September 23, 2019:
For the first time since I was in the hospital I was happy
gfhfhhhh on September 21, 2019:
i am writing an essay about him and this helped me alot i loe you
jason on September 10, 2019:
that cool I like it a lot maybe I get a good grade
Tayler on August 16, 2019:
What was his favorite food
I on July 09, 2019:
Riley on July 09, 2019:
Thank you very very much
Lily on June 03, 2019:
This really helped me. Thanks for getting me an A+!
martin luther king jr. on May 30, 2019:
bob on May 23, 2019:
wow MAN thsts KEWL on May 16, 2019:
samantha on May 12, 2019:
so much information this is a wonderful place for research.
Zoe on May 07, 2019:
This gives me alot of info andit helps alot for facts about him, he is really insipring
n on May 07, 2019:
Paste Blank Meme Here BOI on May 06, 2019:
it gives me some info but not a lot
Natalie on May 02, 2019:
This gives me noooo information
yall mean on May 01, 2019:
pepole who are disrespectful and thank you for the facts
destiny on April 05, 2019:
i need more facts about martin luther king jr cause i need 5 more facts about him.
destiny on April 05, 2019:
this is helpful and thank you.
bfty on March 30, 2019:
DOEDUDE on March 22, 2019:
Isabella on March 20, 2019:
Thank u for all the things u did for us,love u
digbuie on March 08, 2019:
Paul Goodman (author) from Florida USA on February 27, 2019:
Slavery officially ended in 1865, around a hundred years before Martin Luther King's activism. Prejudice against African Americans continued, however. MLK's fought for social, economic, and political equality, motivated by his religious convictions and personal experiences of injustice.
Lucy Loves Mermaids on February 25, 2019:
Why did Martin Luther King Jr stop slavery
??????? on February 21, 2019:
This was very helpful for a project
Avery on February 04, 2019:
Thanks for the help
Anonymous on January 27, 2019:
I saw the same ad 5 times it is not that ad worthy
lincoln on January 26, 2019:
I saw four of the same adds. don't do it again.
Ezekiel L. Harper on January 25, 2019:
later on, i will be puting each fact here into the comments so that you (or the others looking at the chat) can use it.
keep up the good work on the facts and have a good day!!! :)
Ricardo doing project on January 23, 2019:
The project is called a wax museum you can look it up on YouTube.
Ricardo doing project on January 22, 2019:
i am doing a project and this page really helps me out
cool guy on January 22, 2019:
love this page , really love martin luther king/jr. I respect this PAGE
Marisol on January 21, 2019:
I love mlk
emmanuel on January 18, 2019:
This gives alot of information, helpful.
kiki on January 18, 2019:
i like that you guys or girls are giving facts to peopei thank you so much
name on January 17, 2019:
please put some information up about martin luther king jr that is about what he liked to do as a child/ his hobbies.
borderlands fan on January 17, 2019:
I agree with look at this kid
nick name on January 17, 2019:
Aafnan on January 16, 2019:
Gary on January 16, 2019:
love it and thank you ML.
Dashowm@brown on January 16, 2019:
this was NOT helpful i dint find anything
Look at this kid on January 16, 2019:
This website is very helpful, I spent most of my time reviewing it even though I hate reading through Long websites,
Jacksepticeye on January 16, 2019:
Yessie on January 15, 2019:
Very helpful article
Amy on January 14, 2019:
Amy on January 14, 2019:
Good Job you guys.
Adrian Huggins on January 13, 2019:
Rest in peace both of you (mlk and Coretta king)
Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on January 12, 2019:
A first class hub. Well researched and extremely informative. Touching many bases throughout. Well done.
morgan on January 08, 2019:
i love marten lother king jr
Olivia on December 03, 2018:
Thank you! I am glad that this website was created. I have a good amount of information that is very helpful. I will come here and read again because it helped me a bunch with my project, thank you again.
William on November 30, 2018:
Good work on this. It told me what I needed to know.
Ftggvu on October 30, 2018:
Larry on September 13, 2018:
Thank you MLK
michael on September 10, 2018:
we should all be proud of what he has done
jiggie on May 20, 2018:
this was really helpful because i have a project i have to do
bella on May 17, 2018:
thanks for all you do martin luther king jr.
jr on May 15, 2018:
these are really useful facts
Jeff Bob on May 14, 2018:
Really useful but should put more words instead of copying speeches and quotes from the internet. Not too reliable.
Cara McMahon p7 on May 09, 2018:
This got me at leased 40 bullet points cause I was struggling
justin on May 09, 2018:
thx for helpping me on this project
destiny on April 11, 2018:
what did this man spend his life doing
christian on April 06, 2018:
it help me on a project
a student on March 20, 2018:
it helped me pass a project
a student on March 19, 2018:
great website helped me pass my exams into eton
B frfgr&rfgedfrfg$ crvrggr&edcrdc Dbgydeubves on March 19, 2018:
I wish it was in order with his life
Chris on March 13, 2018:
I love Martin Luther king
Travis Peodelt on February 23, 2018:
This is a really good website this helped me with a project i had
Jeff on February 23, 2018:
I love this website so much information
Billy Bob on February 20, 2018:
this was good info
daphney on February 11, 2018:
this helped me with my homework but its kind of anoying when its way to long so i have to start over
Uvaldo granado on February 07, 2018:
So good and inspirational good bye
tanisha on January 30, 2018:
good but boring
Ashley Trisdale on January 22, 2018:
some people hate him
boiiiii on January 21, 2018:
he had affairs!!!
Thankful on January 21, 2018:
Thank you Martin Luther King Jr.
Liliana on January 21, 2018:
He did great thing for us
mommy on January 19, 2018:
Mr Fluff on January 12, 2018:
I love this i'm using it for school. He is a nice man!
hey on January 11, 2018:
wow i did not know any of this stuff i mean learning this gives me more of who he was and what he did
I dont go to school on January 09, 2018:
well what i think about this is really great and idk so im just gonna leave bye