Beyond the I Have A Dream Speech: Six Things Most People Don't Know About MLK

By Taylor Flake, Carlton Moore, and David Lawson

Whether you choose to call him Reverend King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Brother Martin, or even more simply MLK, there are six central themes and ideas that come to mind when we think of the late great Martin Luther King. King’s legacy of nonviolence and his “I Have A Dream" speech come to mind when we think of him, but like most people, there are quite a few things that most people don’t know about King. We have already learned so much from King’s life, but one can never learn enough. Voltaire stated it best: “Is there anyone so wise as to learn by the experience of others?” By taking a closer look into the things most people don’t know about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we are afforded the opportunity to learn from his experiences in hopes that we can better grow ourselves, others, and our community.

1. Michael, not Martin, was initially named after his father Michael King Jr. 

He later changed his name to Martin Luther after the Catholic priest. Martin Luther is widely known for publicly challenging some of the Catholic Church’s teachings with his “Ninety-Five Theses.” From this, we are reminded that we should all look up to someone who has come before us for the work they’ve done.

2.At age 15 and then again at 18, King harvested tobacco at a farm in Connecticut. 

King’s time harvesting tobacco was the closest thing to racial equality that he experienced during his lifetime. King was able to eat at any table in Hartford, CT —anywhere, anytime. This experience served as an inspiration for his life’s work because it led him to believe that no type of work was beneath him. Never think you are too great to get your hands dirty, because you never know what inspiration will come from your work.

3. He also started college at age 15. 

King skipped both the 9th and 12th grades of high school and began college at age 15 under a new wartime program that strived to boost college enrollment by allowing promising high school students to start college early. King graduated with a degree in Sociology at 19 from Morehouse College and went on to obtain a Bachelor of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary and later a Ph.D. from Boston University. While completing his studies at Boston University, King also became a member of the Sigma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. While many teenagers don’t get the opportunity to attend college at as young of an age as he did, we’re reminded that each of us can do anything that we set our mind to regardless of how young we are.

4. It is said that King improvised the last part of his “I Have A Dream” speech. 

Prior to the speech, King had his remarks outlined but it’s said that he moved his notes aside and spoke freely about his dream in mid-speech. We all know and love Martin Luther King for this speech because many feel as though they are currently living parts of the “dream” that Martin so eloquently spoke of today. But what can we learn from his improvised speech? From this, we learn that sometimes an initial plan is not always the best plan to follow. Through improvisation we learn to speak from the heart and maybe offer prophetic words that spark a change in your audience.

5. Martin Luther King Jr. had the idea for the “Occupy Movement” nearly 45 years before we actually did it.

King had a strong desire to bring the marginalized together. This desire materialized into an effort named the “Poor People’s Campaign.” At the time of King’s death there were roughly 3,000 protesters living in tents around the National Mall in our nation’s capitol. Individuals rarely have ideas that fully become reality. From this instance alone, we find motivation to keep “dreaming” and working towards making those dreams a reality, because you never know what can happen 45 years later.

Photo: Morton Broffman, Getty Images

6. King was arrested 29 times. 

Most of us have seen Martin Luther King’s mug shot among the iconic photos, but if we look beyond the fame and think about the context of the photo for a while we learn something extremely important. While King received many awards and honors both before and after his death (he was even a Nobel Peace Prize winner and Grammy recipient), King also had a police record

Despite this, he’s still crowned as one of the most notable change-makers known to mankind. This is a great reminder that while your work may get you in trouble, you still have time to make positive changes in the world we live in.

Taylor Flake, Carlton Moore, and David Lawson serve on the leadership team of the NAACP Chapter at Christian Brothers University 
Posted by Josh Colfer at 5:06 PM

The Galleon is curated and managed by Christian Brothers University, a Memphis-based university founded in the Lasallian tradition (a sect within the Catholic faith). Part of our founding mission is to uphold respect for all persons-regardless of political, religious, or social beliefs. As an institution, we take no stand on political matters; to do so would undermine our commitment to intellectual inquiry and thoughtful response to events taking place in our World by members of the CBU community.

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