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The List: 5 facts about Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. attends a White House meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson in March 1966. Image: LBJ Library

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday that marks the civil rights leader’s birthday, will be observed Monday, Jan. 21. Here are five things you may not have known about his life.

1. King’s birth name wasn’t “Martin.” He was named Michael at birth, but his father later changed his name to Martin, possibly to honor 16th-century theologian Martin Luther.

2. He began college at age 15. King was admitted to Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1944, following his junior year of high school. His early college admission was due in part to declining college enrollment due to the wartime draft. He received a degree in sociology.

3. King won the Nobel Peace Prize. He received the prize in 1964 at age 35, becoming the youngest man to be honored with the award. King turned over the $54,123 prize money to leading civil rights groups.

4. He was inspired by Gandhi. Indian activist Mohandas Gandhi’s philosophies influenced King’s belief in non-violent protests. In 1959, King traveled to India and visited with Ghandi’s family and followers, as well as Indian officials. Later that year, King preached on Gandhi’s use of peaceful protests to end discrimination.

5. King’s iconic speech lasted longer than expected. In 1963, King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech before more than 250,000 people at the March on Washington. His remarks lasted 16 minutes, though he was only scheduled to speak for four.

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