You may know that Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights leader, but here are some surprising facts about him that you may not have heard in school.
1. His birth name was Michael, not Martin.
The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.
2. He entered college at the age of 15.
King was such a gifted student that he skipped grades 9–12 before enrolling in 1944 at Morehouse College. King was ordained before graduating college with a degree in sociology.
3. He was imprisoned nearly 30 times.
According to the King Center, King went to jail 29 times. He was arrested for acts of civil disobedience and on trumped-up charges, such as when he was jailed in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone.
4. George Washington is the only other American to have had his birthday observed as a national holiday.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that created a federal holiday to honor King. The holiday, first commemorated in 1986, is celebrated on the third Monday in January, close to King’s January 15 birthday.