Martin Luther King Jr Day: More than Just a Day Off

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Infographic by Alyssa Brunson

Infographic by Alyssa Brunson

Anyone who has been through elementary school is fond of Martin Luther King Junior’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. We know that he was a great civil rights leader, and that he helped lead the nation to desegregation and pave the way for equality. Most people only know King up to that point, however there is so much more to learn about Dr. King and his legacy.

Tracing back to his birth, King was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. Changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year old son.

In 1944, after skipping both the ninth and twelfth grades, Dr. King entered Morehouse College at the age of 15. He graduated at age 19 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

He later continued his education at the Crozer Theological Seminary. He received a C in public speaking during his first year. However, he ended up graduating valedictorian of his class, as well as student body president. After receiving a divinity degree from Crozer, he attended graduate school at Boston University, where he received his Ph.D degree in systematic theology.

In 1953, Dr. King married his wife Coretta. Segregation laws made it difficult for Martin and his new wife Coretta to stay in a hotel, and so a friend let them stay in his funeral parlor.

Throughout his life, Dr. King worked to bring equality for black people in many ways, including bringing about equality for black actors. Actress Nichelle Nichols almost left her role as Uhura on Star Trek for a Broadway Career, but Dr. King convinced her to stay. As one of the first black actresses on a popular series to play a role other than a maid or nanny, she was told by King,

“Nichelle, whether you like it or not, you have become a symbol. If you leave, they can replace you with a blonde-haired white girl, and it will be like you were never there. What you’ve accomplished, for all of us, will only be real if you stay.”

When King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963, the final section of his speech is believed to have been largely improvised.

King’s life was fully devoted to courage and making the world a more equal place to live in for all society. King’s courageous efforts have been honored, and are still being honored in many ways throughout the nation, as well as in other parts of the world. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is also celebrated in Toronto, Canada and Hiroshima, Japan.

Dr. King once told his mother, “Mother dear, one day I’m going to turn this world upside down.” With the amount of impact he had on the world, it’s safe to say he kept that promise.

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