Five Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Martin Luther King Jr.
I visited Washington DC for the first time last fall and as I stood, looking out over the National Mall, I felt a sense of electricity run through my body. When I closed my eyes, I was able to envision the hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on that very spot on August 28th, 1963 for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Martin Luther King Jr. famously gave his "I Have A Dream" speech.
Today is the day that we honor Martin Luther King Jr., the man who fought tirelessly against the segregation of African-Americans and who promoted peace and preservation of life in the process. While virtually everyone is familiar with Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech, there are five things about Martin Luther King Jr. that you might not have known before today. These are those five things.
Rumor has it Dr. King improvised parts of his “I Have A Dream” speech including its famous title. Clarence B. Jones is the person who worked on the draft of the speech, revising it almost right up to the very second Dr. King stepped up to the podium. Jones claimed that Dr. King still wasn't sure what he was going to say about 12 hours before he spoke to the crowd and that the “dream” reference wasn’t anywhere in the speech that he took to the podium. According to Jones, Dr. King added that part on the fly when singer Mahalia Jackson prompted him to speak about the “dream.”
Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 at the age of 35, which made him the youngest Peace Prize winner until Malala Yousafzai of Yemen was awarded the prize at the age of 17 in 2014.
While in attendance at Crozer Theological Seminary, Dr. King was introduced to the teachings and philosophies of Gandhi. Dr. King began attending Cozer in the fall of 1948 which wasn't very long after Gandhi was assassinated (January 1948). Dr. King said he attended a lecture from the president of Howard University on Gandhi, and immediately became “deeply influenced” by the philosophy of nonviolence.
Believe it or not, the man who would go on to become one of the most influential figures in American history because of his profound and moving speeches actually got a C in public speaking while he was in seminary school. By the time his third year of seminary rolled around, Dr. King had turned that C into straight A's and was named valedictorian.
When Dr. King was named as the spokesman for the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, he was virtually unknown. Dr. King had just arrived in Alabama, and the leaders of the boycott (which was sparked by Rosa Parks’ decision to keep her bus seat) wanted someone new to be the public voice of the movement.