Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a United States federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around the time of King’s birthday, January 15. Here are some things about King that you may not have known.
1. In 1964, King became the second African American—and the third black man—to win the Nobel Peace Prize
2. A decade before he was assassinated, King was nearly stabbed to death in Harlem when a mentally ill African-American woman who believed he was conspiring against her with communists, stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener. He underwent emergency surgery, and remained hospitalized for several weeks but made a full recovery. The doctor who performed the operation said, “Had Dr. King sneezed or coughed the weapon would have penetrated the aorta. . . . He was just a sneeze away from death”
3. On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated by the #277 man on the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives list. In 1967, James Earl Ray escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary by hiding in a truck transporting bread from the prison bakery. After being convicted for the murder of King Ray was sentenced to 99 years in Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. In 1977, Ray became the #351 on the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives list after he and six other convicts escaped from the prison. He was recaptured three days later and given another year in prison, bringing his sentence to 100 years.
4. While much of King’s philosophy of nonviolence was derived from Christian—especially Anabaptist—sources, a significant influence was the work of Indian leader Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi. While in seminary King’s gave a presentation he prepared for a class entitled “Christian Theology for Today,” where he included Gandhi as one of a number of figures he identified as “individuals who greatly reveal the working of the Spirit of God.”
5. King is one of three people to have a federal holiday in his honor, according to USA.gov. The other two people with the recognition are George Washington and Christopher Columbus. Although the holiday celebrates King’s birthday, which is Jan. 15, MLK Day is considered a floating holiday, and is always observed on the third Monday of January.
6. Getting all 50 sates on board took until 2000. New Hampshire was the last state to adopt MLK Day as a paid state holiday in 1999, according to Fact Monster. Several states, including Connecticut, Illinois and Massachusetts, celebrated King before the federal holiday was created, only 27 along with the District of Columbia recognized Martin Luther King Jr. Day after the federal law.
7. 17 Minutes: King delivered his most famous address, the “I Have A Dream” speech, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. According to National Public Radio, King spoke for 17 minutes to more than 200,000 supporters, calling for an end to racial discrimination.