5 Fun Facts to Share with Your Students for Martin Luther King Jr. Day


Not many people get their own federal holiday. Martin Luther King, Jr. was special enough to be one of the honored few. Check out this blog post for five kid-friendly MLKJ facts.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr.!

The third Monday of January is a special day in the United States. Children and adults around the country take the day off from school and work to remember a very important man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was born on January 15th, 1929. This holiday, in honor of King's important contributions to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, has been celebrated since 1986, though not for the first time by all 50 states until 2000. Read on to learn five interesting facts about Martin Luther King, Jr. that you can share with your students on the next MLKJ Day.

Martin Luther King Jr

1. MLKJ's father changed his name to honor a religious leader.

As you can probably tell by the ''junior'' in his name, Martin Luther King, Jr. was named after his father. However, when MLK Jr. was born in 1929, he and his father both bore the name ''Martin King.'' A few years later, Martin King, Sr. changed his name to Martin Luther King, Sr. in honor of the German Protestant religious leader and reformer, Martin Luther. MLK Jr.'s name was also changed to follow suit.

2. MLKJ spent his wedding night in a funeral home.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. married Coretta Scott in June of 1953, there were no hotels that were willing to allow them - as African Americans - to spend the night. As a result, the newlyweds had to spend their first night as a married couple in a funeral home owned by African Americans. Thankfully, five years later, they were able to take a second, perhaps more pleasant, honeymoon in Mexico.

3. MLKJ delivered his ''I Have a Dream'' speech to over 250,000 people.

One of the things that Martin Luther King, Jr. is most known for is delivering a speech in which he said, ''I have a 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.'' This speech was given on August 28th, 1963, in Washington, D.C. at an event called the ''March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.'' The goal was to promote equal rights. Over 250,000 people listened in awe as Martin Luther King, Jr. first uttered those famous words that have gone on to inspire generations.

Martin Luther King Jr gives a speech

4. The most famous part of the ''I Have a Dream'' speech may have been improvised.

While most of us are familiar with the first few sentences of the speech, beginning with ''I have a dream…'', Martin Luther King, Jr'.s ''March on Washington'' speech was, in fact, quite long. It was certainly long enough to have been pre-written ahead of time. However, historians believe that King's most famous words were ad-libbed on the day of the speech. The ideas were similar to some he had previously expressed, but delivered in a uniquely powerful - and memorable - manner.

Martin Luther King Jr during the March on Washington

5. There are over 900 streets around the world named for MLKJ.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is one important figure who happens to be a common namesake for streets and boulevards. Around the world, over 900 streets bear Martin Luther King Jr.'s name. Seventy percent of these streets are in the Southern United States, with over 100 in King's home state of Georgia alone.

For more student-friendly fun facts and lessons about a variety of historical events and figures, check out's Teacher Edition, which gives you access to over 70,000 lessons in every subject.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
January 2019
teachers student engagement

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