5 Lesser-Known Facts About MLK

He was at first named Michael, and his 'dream' line may have been improvised in his famous speech
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2023 9:07 AM CST
MLK's 'I Have a Dream' Line May Not Have Been Planned
In this Aug. 28, 1963, file photo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses marchers during his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.   (AP Photo, File)

It's come to be known as his "I Have a Dream Speech," but Martin Luther King Jr. apparently didn't originally intend to mention the word "dream" at all on the National Mall that day in 1963. As the nation observes the MLK holiday Monday, a number of sites are taking a look at some of lesser-known facts about the civil rights icon. As the Washington Post notes, King's draft did not include mention of his dream. But during the address, American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson called out from behind the podium, "Tell them about the dream, Martin," per History.com.

King had spoken of the dream in previous speeches, and Jackson apparently thought his address on the National Mall needed what History.com calls a "course-correction." After she calls out, King appears to leave behind his prepared notes as he launches into the famous next section. (Read the speech in full here.) Some other MLK factoids, from the Post, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, and another History.com piece:

  • His name: MLK was actually born Michael King Jr. His father, Michael King Sr., changed both their names when Martin was a young boy, in homage to Protestant reformation leader Martin Luther of the 16th century.
  • Early college: As a gifted student, MLK skipped grades 9 and 12 and entered Morehouse College in 1944 at the age of 15.
  • His police blotter: King was arrested 29 times through the course of his life, typically being charged with civil disobedience.
  • He improved: MLK got a C in public speaking while training to be a minister at Crozer Theological Seminary.
(Read more Martin Luther King Jr. stories.)

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