Interesting Facts About Martin Luther King, Jr. for Kids

December 12, 2022

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You still have some time to plan how to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January. These are the facts you’ll want to know and share with your kids.

MLK statue

Martin Luther King Jr. for Kids

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Civil Rights Leader who is best known for advancing the Civil Rights Movement and his “I Have a Dream” speech. Martin was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, GA.

He died in Memphis, TN, on April 4, 1968. We recognize Martin Luther King Day on the third Monday of January.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born Michael King in 1929. But when his father visited Germany in 1934, he was inspired by the Reformation leader, Martin Luther, and changed his and his son’s names to honor him.

Young Martin was very intelligent and enrolled in Morehouse College when he was only 15 years old.

After graduating from Morehouse, he enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Coretta Scott King, had four children together. After finishing his education in the north, Martin Luther King Jr. returned to Atlanta to pastor a church with his father, who was also a Baptist minister.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Why is Martin Luther King famous?

Martin Luther King used nonviolent protest to fight against racial segregation and Jim Crow laws in the Southern United States. King’s belief in the nonviolent activism of Ghandi along with his Christian values inspired him to take a stand for equal rights for black Americans.

He became an important figure and leader in the American Civil Rights Movement until his assassination in 1968.

He became famous for his oratory and leadership as a Civil Rights activist. He fought for African Americans to be recognized for their character rather than discriminated against because of the color of their skin.

While working and pursuing higher education in the northern United States, Martin recognized a distinct difference between the way black people were treated in the northern states as compared to the south, where he had grown up.

Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement in the United States began in earnest in 1955 when Martin Luther King Jr. helped to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. With his soaring oratory and peaceful protests, Dr. King was able to inspire an entire generation of his countrymen to work toward nonviolent social change.

MLK’s Contributions

Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and contributed to some of its greatest accomplishments.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the first large-scale protest against segregation. A few days before the boycott began in December of 1955, Rosa Parks had been arrested and fined for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man.

In response, African Americans refused to ride the city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, for over a year until the public transportation system was integrated. The leader of this boycott was none other than a young Martin Luther King, Jr.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place in 1963 and sought to draw more attention to the plight of African Americans nearly a century after Emancipation. But the event was further spurred by shocking violence in Birmingham, Alabama, against protestors of segregation.

Additionally, they wanted a nationwide protest to be able to pressure Congress to finally pass the Civil Rights Act.

Knowing of the importance of this massive march, then-President John F. Kennedy met with King and other leaders prior to the march.

The climax of this March on Washington was MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, which was heard by about 250,000 people.

Voting Rights

On the heels of the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was finally passed. Because of this Act, the policy of segregation in public places was ended.

From there, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 quickly followed and was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The purpose of the Voting Rights Act was to remove barriers, particularly in the south, from African Americans who were still trying to exercise their right to vote under the 15th Amendment.

Martin Luther King Jr. Facts for Kids

Here are some great Martin Luther King Jr. Facts for kids.

Where did Martin Luther King, Jr. grow up?

Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where his father was the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Martin had two siblings, an older sister, and a younger brother.

How did Martin Luther King, Jr. get involved in civil rights?

His involvement in the Civil Rights Movement began with the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) met to discuss the strategy of the boycott and its leaders chose Martin Luther King, Jr., to be the president of this newly-formed association.

At the time, 26-year-old MLK was the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. So he quickly came into the spotlight and into a key leadership role. The MIA brought demands to the city and a federal court eventually sided with them.

With the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott 381 days later, the public transportation system was integrated and MLK was now a household name.

“I Have a Dream”

Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. This famous speech was heard by a quarter million people.

Some of the most famous lines include his dream that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The speech ends this way:

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Speaking Out

While King continued to speak out against racism and segregation in the south, the situation in Birmingham, Alabama caught his attention. Citizens were met with resistance as they tried to push for desegregation in their city.

So King focused his efforts of nonviolent resistance in what became known as the Birmingham campaign. He found himself arrested and wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” during his incarceration.

In this letter he laid out the argument for the Civil Rights Movement in general and the Birmingham campaign in particular.

Inspiring Others

Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired others to continue fighting for the cause of racial unity and equal rights. A great way to continue the inspiration even today is to have your kids choose some Martin Luther King crafts that they can create this month.

Nobel Prize for Peace

When Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35, he was the youngest recipient of this award. His pursuit of racial justice through nonviolent means was worthy of the prize.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassination

Sadly, Martin Luther King Jr. could not continue his work in the Civil Rights Movement. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Interesting Facts about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here are some interesting facts that you may not know about Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day didn’t become an American federal holiday until 1983 when President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law.
  • Along with George Washington, MLK is the only other person to have his birthday be a national holiday.
  • MLK is the only non-President to have this honor.
  • King was imprisoned nearly 30 times.
  • Dr. King gave over 2500 speeches in his lifetime, most with little to no notes.
  • Star Trek was one of the only shows that King’s young children were allowed to watch.
  • King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech” wasn’t prepared until midnight the day he was to deliver it.
  • Famous Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson prompted MLK to leave his prepared remarks and speak extemporaneously when she said behind him, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” And the rest is history.

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