Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates’ new film “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise” premiered Tuesday on PBS. The two-part, four-hour documentary chronicles the last 50 years of African-American history.
In his movie, Gates, who is also the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, documents black history starting from Martin Luther King Jr. up to U.S. President Barack Obama. King, a Baptist minister, was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement from the 1950s until his assassination in 1968.
Here are 10 facts about the social activist:
- King was born Michael King Jr. on Jan. 15, 1929, but was called Martin or M.L. from a young age.
- King skipped grades nine and 12 and attended Morehouse College at the age of 15 and graduated with a degree in sociology.
- He was arrested a total of 29 times.
- Former FBI head John Edgar Hoover had King placed under surveillance over suspicions that he may be a Communist following King’s opposition toward the government’s role in Vietnam.
- King’s house was bombed in 1956 when he was president of the Montgomery Improvement Association. The social activist was at a meeting but his wife and children who were in the building escaped unhurt.
- King was the subject of an assassination attempt in 1958 when he was attending a book signing in Harlem. A woman plunged a 7-inch letter opener into his chest nearly killing him.
- In 1963, he was named Time magazine’s "Man of the Year."
- Former President Ronald Reagan signed a law that declared King’s birthday a federal holiday. The holiday is commemorated on the third Monday in January every year.
- George Washington is the only other American to have his birthday declared a federal holiday.
- Lyndon Johnson, who was president when King was assassinated, didn’t attend the minister’s funeral, although he declared a national day of mourning after King’s death.