Inching closer to the 50th anniversary of “I Have A Dream,” it dawned on us that while MLK’s legacy is as prominent now more than ever, there are still plenty of little-known tidbits about the civil rights activist left to be explored. With that being said, we dug up a list of some of the more interesting (and entertaining) facts about Martin Luther King Jr. for all to enjoy.
1.) Known now to the public as “I Have A Dream,” in reality those words were never included in the original draft of his 1963 speech. Instead, Martin Luther King Jr. ad libbed them as he stood up at pulpit. The original draft is said to have had several names, including “The Normalcy Speech” and “A Cancelled Check.”
2.) Considered to have been drafted in New York and then in Washington hours before the rally began, “I Have A Dream” lasts a total of 17 minutes, and MLK Jr. drew his references from a wide variety of sources, including the Bible, the US Declaration of Independence, and even Shakespeare.
‘3.) According to his co-authors for the speech, Dr. King was so busy with the march that even up to TWELVE hours before delivering it, he still did not have a firm idea what he was going to say. As co-author Clarence B. Jones stated in an interview, “the speech went on to depart drastically from the draft I’d delivered,” adding: “In front of all those people, cameras, and microphones, Martin winged it.”
4.) In 1939, Dr. King sang with his church choir in Atlanta at the gala premiere of the movie “Gone With The Wind.”
5.) Martin Luther King Jr. day was not actually recognized as a paid national holiday by all 50 states until the year 2000.
6.) Although he was only 39 at the time of his death, autopsy results revealed the Civil Rights icon had the heart of a 60-year old. The doctor believed this was a result of the stress he endured in his years as a civil rights activist.
7.) Known as one of the most popular street names in the United States, there are over 900 streets named after Dr. King. At least 40 US states have at least one MLK Jr. road of their own.
8.) In 1934, five years after his birth, Dr. King’s family discovered Martin’s name had been recorded wrong on his birth certificate. The certificate said Michael King, and therefore his name had to be legally changed to Martin.
9.) A little known present day fact, Dr. King’s “traveling bible” was used to swear in President Obama at his second inauguration.
10.) In his final speech, delivered on April 3, 1968, Dr. King said “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about a thing. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Within hours following this speech, MLK was assassinated on April 4, 1968, prompting historians and conspiracy theorists everywhere to argue over whether Dr. King knew his final days were at hand.