Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X waiting for press conference, March 26, 1964. (Photo: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
As the nation commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday, some may find interesting tidbits of little-known or talked about facts and details of the slain civil rights champion.
When he was born on Jan. 15, 1929, King’s name at birth was actually was Michael.
His father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church (where the younger King would later also pastor), traveled to Germany and “was inspired by the teachings of the leader of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther,” recalled Michael Hart, a Christian conservative and host of the syndicated “Michael Hart Show.”
“As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son,” Hart said, stating a fact backed by multiple published records.
Not much was made of the fact that King was a very gifted student which allowed him to skip grades 9 and 12 before enrolling in Morehouse College at the age of 15, Hart added.
King’s father and maternal grandfather also attended Morehouse.
“Although King was the son, grandson and great grandson of Baptist ministers, he initially had no desire to enter the ministry,” Hart said.
Another lesser-known fact about King centers on his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. When he delivered that monumental and historic dissertation in Washington, it wasn’t the first time.
The civil rights leader first delivered that speech during the “Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom” on May 17, 1957. At the time, King also delivered his first national address on voting rights before a crowd estimated between 15,000 and 30,000.
King’s assassination in Memphis was not the first attempt on his life.
He narrowly escaped an attempt a decade before on Sept. 20, 1958 in Harlem where he was signing copies his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom.”
Izola Ware Curry approached King and asked if he was Martin Luther King Jr. After he said yes, Curry responded that, “I’ve been looking for you for five years,” and plunged a seven-inch letter opener into King’s chest.
The tip of the blade came to rest alongside his aorta, and King underwent hours of emergency surgery. Surgeons later told King that just one sneeze could have punctured the aorta and killed him.
King was in Memphis in April 1968 to support the strike of the city’s black sanitation workers, and in a speech on the night before his assassination, he told an audience at Mason Temple Church:
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Less than 24 hours later on April 4,1968 at 6:01 pm Central time as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray.
King would have been 90 this year.