Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most influential figures of the 21st century.
King’s tireless activism during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s improved the lives of millions of people, and his tragic assassination on April 4, 1968, marked one of the darkest days in American history. King’s oratory prowess is well-documented. Individuals across the globe are familiar with his “I Have a Dream” speech, which King delivered during the March on Washington less than a year before his death. Less familiar are some other notable facts about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
• If he were alive today, Martin Luther King, Jr. would still be years away from his 100th birthday. King was assassinated in 1968, when he was not yet 40 years old. Born in Atlanta in 1929, King could very much still be alive today and would have celebrated his 93rd birthday on January 15, 2022.
• King was an extraordinarily gifted student. At an age when many students were preparing to enter their sophomore or junior year of high school, King began his freshman year of college at Morehouse College. King enrolled at Morehouse when he was 15 after the school opened enrollment to junior high students in an effort to overcome a dip in enrollment related to World War II. King passed the entrance exam and enrolled in the fall of 1944.
• King was ordained as a minister prior to graduating from Morehouse. The Baptist ministry was something of a family business for the Kings, as Martin Luther King Jr.’s father, grandfather and great grandfather were all Baptist ministers. However, King did not initially intend to follow that path. He ultimately changed course and entered the ministry at age 18, graduating from Morehouse with a degree in sociology a year later.
• King survived a knife attack years before his assassination. King was stabbed in the chest with a letter opener during a book signing event in Harlem in 1958. His assailant, Izola Curry, was ultimately deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial. Though the attack did not kill him, King had to undergo intensive emergency surgery and was hospitalized for several weeks.
• Conspiracy theories surround King’s assassination. King’s assassin, James Earl Ray, was found guilty and sentenced to 99 years in prison. Authorities, including the United States Department of Justice, concluded Ray, a career criminal, acted alone. However, some, including surviving members of King’s family, believed his assassination was part of a conspiracy. Despite his tragic assassination in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. left his mark on the world.
That legacy is even more remarkable when considering the unique twists and turns King’s life took prior to his death.