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Martin Luther King, Jr. was a social activist and Baptist minister who played a key role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assignation in 1968. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and is remembered each year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a U.S. federal holiday since 1986.


Here are 6 facts you may not know about one of only two Americans to have his birthday observed as a national holiday:


1. King’s birth name was Michael, not Martin. Five years after MLK’s birth on January 15, 1929, King’s father traveled to Germany in 1934 and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader, Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name, as well as his son’s.


2. King entered college at the age of 15. A gifted student, King skipped grades nine and 12 and enrolled at Morehouse College, a prestigious and historically black Atlanta college, in 1944.


3. King was imprisoned nearly 30 times. According to the King Center, MLK was arrested for acts of civil disobedience and other minor charges 29 times.


4. King escaped an assassination attempt nearly a decade before his death. In 1957, while signing copies of his new book “Stride Toward Freedom,” a woman by the name of Izola Ware Curry stabbed King in the chest with a letter opener. King issued a statement from his hospital bed affirming his nonviolent principles and saying he felt no ill will toward his attacker.


5. King’s mother was also killed by a bullet. On June 30, 1974, while playing the organ during a Sunday service, Alberta Williams King was struck by a bullet fired by Marcus Wayne Chenault, Jr. Chenault later admitted he was instructed to kill King’s father; however, he killed King’s mother instead because she was closer.


6. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was actually his second speech at the Lincoln Memorial. King was one of the civil rights leaders who spoke during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom on May 17, 1957. King delivered his first national address on the topic of voting rights before an estimated crowd of 15,000 to 30,000.

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