8 Things You Might Not Know About Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Ada Guzman

Today celebrates the birthday of the amazing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most famous champions of the Civil Rights movement. We want to celebrate with 5 facts about King that aren’t really talked about in the history books in school, and ones that even you might not know about.

1. He believed that capitalism was not very useful in modern society.

In a letter from prison to wife Coretta Scott King, MLK shared his thoughts on capitalism, saying that he was “much more socialistic than capitalistic” and that it had “outlived its usefulness… Our economic system is going through a radical change, and certainly this change is needed. I would certainly welcome the day to come when there will be a nationalization of industry. Let us continue to hope, work, and pray that in the future we will live to see a warless world, a better distribution of wealth, and a brotherhood that transcends race or color.”

2. He urged the American dream to be realized.

The lesser-known dream sermon was delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia in 1965. In it, King speaks on class division, the dignity of all work, and the state of the American dream for the equality of all men. “But ever since the founding fathers of America dreamed this dream…Now, more than ever before, America is challenged to realize its noble dream. For the shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of an anemic democracy. And the price that the United States must pay for the continued exploitation and oppression of the Negro and other minority groups is the price of its own destruction.”

ml a2d82Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., via Wikimedia Commons

3. MLK Jr. was a Trekkie.

Once upon a time Nichelle Nichols almost left her role as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek to pursue a life of theatre—yeah, seriously.

Who stopped her? None other than the American hero Martin Luther King, Jr. Nichelle was attending a fundraiser and was told that someone wanted to meet her. That someone was our man Martin. When he was told that she was considering dropping her role ” the smile came off of his face and he said ‘You can’t do that.'” Why? Because “For the first time we are seen as we should be seen…it is not a black role, but an equal role.” Needless to say, this ’60s babe decided to stay on as Lt. Uhura and later went on to be one half of the first interracial (U.S.) television kiss. 

Image: Star Trek

4. He opposed the Vietnam War.

Martin Luther King’s “On Vietnam” speech is probably the most controversial sermon that you never heard. Delivered in New York City, he challenges the war in Vietnam and the toll that it takes on our society. “The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit… This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.”

5. He was an advocate for reproductive rights

King was a longstanding partner of Planned Parenthood (woo woo!), receiving an award from them in 1966. And in a letter on an advice column he wrote in December 1957, he advocated for the use of birth control as responsible and rational. “An intelligent mother wants it to be a responsible motherhood-a motherhood to which she has given her consent, not a motherhood due to impulse and to chance. And this means birth control in some form.”

6. He and Coretta Scott King spent their honeymoon…

…in a funeral home. When the two activists were married, the “separate, but equal” laws did not permit honeymoon suits to be rented by black couples. Instead, the newlyweds had to spend their first night as a wife and husband inside of a funeral home, which was owned by a family friend. 

mlkcsk fc0c6Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, 1964, Herman Hiller/Wikimedia Commons

 7. He organized the Poor People’s Campaign.

1968 saw King traveling the country to band a group of poor citizens to march on Washington, DC in order to demand an economic bill of rights for poor Americans. King wanted to focus on what he called a “spiritual upheaval”–through revolution and the reconstruction of society. In his Vietnam speech, he stated, “Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world… The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history… If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day… when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

8. He was an old spirt. 

When King was killed at the age of 39, an autopsy had to be performed upon his body. His heart, not even halfway through a century, showed the wear of a 60 year old heart. The examiner believed this to be the result of stress. 

Finally, here is a long-lost speech discovered at UCLA by an archivist…we can only imagine how excited the archivist must have been because we’re thrilled to be sharing it to you! Here, in 1965, at the pinnacle of his career, King speaks on the future of integration, the misuse of the Bible in systematic oppression, and the progress of the black man in America. 

Happy birthday, Reverend King. Your spirit lives on and marches with us today.

Image: National Parks Service

This post was published January 19, 2015

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.