“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”
Much need not be said about a man whose birthday is celebrated as one of the 10 federal holidays of The United States of America. A Baptist minister, activist, humanitarian and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was, without doubt, a man of extraordinary abilities. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and served as the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he helped found in 1957. He was also largely responsible for the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s, both of which completely changed the face of treatment of the African Americans not only in the US, but in the whole world.
Dr King’s honors, victories and speeches continue to be an inspiration to all those who have dedicated their life to the abolition of racial injustice. In fact, such was the power of his struggle, that by 1964, more than 75% of the new members joining United Nations belonged to developing countries which had been continually combating racial bias.
Dr. King remains a major harbinger of justice who still stands firm as a beacon of hope for all African Americans who have suffered by the virtue of their color. Commemorating his 87th birthday, I have compiled a list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about him.
- Martin Luther King was a gifted student. So much so, that he skipped grade 9 and 11 and entered Morehouse College at the tender age of 15.
- Even though his family was deeply involved in worship and religion, a young Martin often questioned this faith and decided to be a doctor or a lawyer, much to his father’s dismay.
- In 1948, Dr. King earned his sociology degree from Morehouse College and attended the liberal Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.There, he gained the respect of his professors as well as his classmates owing to his sincerity and passion. He was also elected student-body president, was valedictorian of his class and easily earned a fellowship for graduate study.
- In seminary school, he was greatly influenced by the teachings of George D. Kelsey, a religion professor, and Dr. Benjamin Mays which led him to decide to accept ministry as his profession.
- Even though, today, his speeches inspire teachers and students alike, Dr. King actually got a C in public speaking in first year of seminary school!
- After graduation, he was accepted for doctoral study at Yale, Boston University, and Edinburgh in Scotland. He however decided to attend Boston University, where he studied systematic theology.
- King narrowly escaped assassination a decade before he actually died. As he was signing copies of his book, ‘Stride Toward Freedom’, a woman walked up to him, told him that she had been looking for him for 5 years and proceeded to stab him in the chest with a 7 inch letter opener. However, after recovering he said that he did not bear any grudges against his attacker.
- King was the youngest male to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35. He was just very recently surpassed by Malala Yousafzai in 2014 who won it at the age of 17.
- In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill declaring Dr. King’s Birthday as a federal holiday. Martin Luther King and George Washington are the only two individuals whose birthdays have been declared as national holidays in the United States.
- Today, there are over 900 streets spread over 42 states in America alone that are named after him with his home state Georgia having the highest of the like.
As he was speaking to 250,000 civil rights supporters, in an iconic speech one beautiful morning on 28th August, 1963 at the steps of Lincoln Memorial in Washington, King said “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. 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.”
Not only did he make his own dream a reality, but he also made the dreams of thousands of African Americans who lived their lives in the shackles of discrimination and poverty, come to life. Today, it is difficult to imagine someone who can awaken the consciousness of humanity with such magnitude as Dr. King did.