Martin Luther King Jr. Day is now an official US federal holiday that marks Dr. King’s birthday. It is always observed on the third Monday of January every year, and often lands on his actual birthday, January 15th.
Dr. King, through his persistence in fighting for equality for all Americans, became the face of nonviolent protests throughout the country in support of the American civil rights movement. President Ronald Reagan made his birthday a national federal holiday by law in 1983. But it wasn’t officially observed by all fifty states until 2000.
Some interesting facts about the father of civil rights in our country:
1. Dr. King entered college at age of 15.
King was an amazing student, and actually skipped two grades high school before enrolling in college in Atlanta, Georgia at Morehouse College. (Dr. King’s father also attended Morehouse.) By age 19, he had earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
2. Dr. King was imprisoned almost 30 times.
Many don’t realize that Dr. King went to jail 29 times. Many of the charges were considered entirely made up. By example, some online sites say he was charged in Montgomery, Alabama for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone.
3. King narrowly escaped assassination several years prior to his death.
In 1958, King was in Harlem in a store when he was approached by a woman named Izola Ware Curry. Curry asked if he was Dr. King and, when he said yes, she stabbed him in the chest with a sharp instrument. Some say it was a knife; others say it was a letter opener. The blade came within inches of his heart and critical life-threatening surgery became necessary. There were reports that if the knife had gone into his chest just an inch further, he would have been killed. Even so, Dr. King famously said he held no ill will toward his assailant.
4. Dr. King’s mother was also killed by a bullet.
In 1974 his elderly mother was playing the organ at her church when a man sitting just a few rows away pulled out a gun and began firing. One of his shots struck Dr. King’s mother and killed her just feet from where her son had spoken out against violence. The gunman said he killed his mother because she was close, and because he was opposed to Christianity. He was sentenced to death but saw his sentence converted to life in prison, in part because, incredibly, the King family was opposed to the death penalty, even as to him.
5. George Washington is the only other American to have his birthday celebrated as a national holiday.
6. Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35, which made him at the time the youngest Peace Prize winner ever, at the age of 35.