How Well Do You Know Martin Luther King Jr?

By: John Miller
Image: HISTORY

About This Quiz

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of a massive crowd and spoke these words: “I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream – one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." When he uttered those famous sentences in Washington D.C. he was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. In this quiz, do you really think you know the man they call “MLK”?

In the wake of World War II, life returned to normal for much of America, and for black citizens — particularly those constrained by Jim Crow laws of the South — oppression and prejudice were daily realities. What do you know about the social conditions that framed the life of the young Martin Luther King Jr.?
King was raised in a family with deep spiritual roots and he had a social conscience from a young age. He also greatly valued education and the opportunities it offered. Do you know anything about the childhood of this famous activist? 

In the turbulent Sixties, King became an icon whose power and inspiring character made him one of the 20th century's greatest leaders. His passions were always at their greatest heights when he spoke to crowds: “ "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. I have a dream today!"

Take our MLK quiz right now! We’ll find out if you really know anything about the man who endured public and political scrutiny of the worst kind in hopes of bringing justice to his people.

In 1963, during the March on Washington, what did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?

At the March on Washington, King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, in which he remarked on race relations and inequality in America. His rousing performance is regarded as a major event of the Civil Rights Movement.

King was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. He encouraged his followers to use which tactics to achieve their goals?

King encouraged the idea of non-violent civil disobedience, in which Civil Rights activists broke social norms and laws in order to highlight inquality. Their tactics sometimes worked — and sometimes, they paid a steep price for their actions.

King grew up in what sort of family circumstances?

King grew up comfortably in Atlanta thanks to his successful preacher father. He was blessed with a large, stable family and excellent educational opportunities.

During his first years in college, King gravitated toward which subjects?

In his first years at college, King was was drawn toward medicine and law. But he ultimately was called to the ministry ... and to serving a cause greater than his own career.

When he was just six, one of King’s favorite playmates abruptly disappeared from his life. Why?

When he was six years old, one of King’s white friends was whisked away to a segregated school. It was an event that left a lasting impression on the young boy.

Why did King attempt suicide at the age of 12?

When he was 12, King snuck out of the house to attend a parade, and in the meantime his beloved grandma died. He was so heartbroken by the event that he leaped from a second-story window trying to kill himself.

When he was 15, King worked for a short time in Connecticut, a place well beyond the segregated South. What sort of impression did the experience have on him?

King was floored by his experiences in the North, where people treated each other equally no matter their race. It made him rethink his ideas on skin color and prejudice.

What was King’s first name at birth?

He was actually given the name Michael King at birth. But he gravitated toward Martin and never looked back.

In 1963, King was part of demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama, in which police used _____ on protesters.

During Birmingham protests, police unleashed dogs and streams of water from fire hoses against protesters. King was arrested, and he wrote his famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" while locked up.

True or false, did King serve as a soldier in World War II?

False. King was just 15 in 1944 as the war raged overseas. Thanks to a war-era program meant to keep colleges functioning at high capacity, King actually attended college classes starting at age 15.

In 1954, King became a Baptist preacher in which city?

King was a Southern man through and through — like his father and grandfather, he became a Baptist preacher. And one of his first jobs was to lead a flock in Montgomery, Alabama, a place that became central to the Civil Rights Movement.

King attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he became known for what?

Classmates at seminary recognized King’s amazing skills as an orator. They so respected his intelligence that they elected him class president even though he was a minority student in a heavily white area.

On March 7, 1965, King helped to organize a protest march in Selma, Alabama, but police violently cracked down on the marchers. The event became known as ______.

Police brutality was commonplace during the protests of the Civil Rights Movement, and Selma was no exception. Protesters were beaten on camera — and normal human beings around America were horrified.

In college, King met a woman named _____ and eventually married her.

King fell in love with Coretta Scott, the woman he married. They had four children and Coretta later became a figurehead of the minority rights movement.

In Montgomery, King became a leader during a boycott of which business?

After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white rider, blacks boycotted the bus system. Their leader? None other than Martin Luther King, Jr.

King was extremely active in politics. Between 1957 and 1968, he gave about how many speeches?

From ‘57 to ‘68, King gave around 2,500 speeches, many of which gravitated toward social rights. By some estimates, he traveled more than 6 million miles in his activist role.

How did King feel about the Vietnam War?

As his power grew, King publicly denounced the Vietnam War as a senseless and expensive ordeal that distracted from more important matters on the homefront.

King was a major figure in which organization?

King helped to organize and lead the Southern Christian Leadership Confernce (SCLC), which became a powerful force during the Civil Rights era.

When he was 35 years old, King became the youngest man ever to _____.

At the age of 35, King became the youngest man ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize. He immediately donated his prize money (about $55,000) to the Civil Rights Movement.

As an up-and-coming political activist, King was well aware of the power of which tool?

In the early ‘60s, television was in its infancy, and handsome, well-spoken men like King and John F. Kennedy understood their on-camera appeal. King put his charisma to good use in front of cameras all around the world.

How many times was King arrested in his life?

As part of his leadership, King actively participated in civil disobedience activities. He was arrested 29 times during his life.

How did President Johnson’s administration treat King and his followers?

Johnson was an avid supporter of civil rights and treated King with respect. His administration helped create some important pieces of legislation for the Civil Rights Movement.

On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated. What happened?

His premonition of death came true. King was on the balcony of his motel in Memphis when a sniper shot him from long range.

How did the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover approach King and his movement?

Hoover used the FBI as a tool to spy on King and his movement. The end goal? To minimize King’s power in American society and politics.

What happened after King’s murder?

In a tumultuous era, King’s murder was gasoline on a hot fire. Infuriated minorities rose up in cities around the country, starting riots that captured headlines all over the world.

What happened to the man who killed King?

James Earl Ray was a prison escapee who murdered the icon of the Civil Rights Movement. He was caught in London, convicted, and imprisoned. He died behind bars in 1998.

True or false, was King a communist?

There’s no evidence that King was a communist. but officials at the FBI liked to think so, as the accusation gave them leverage to monitor King and his fellow activists.

How did King feel about the topic of gay rights?

No one, not even his family, really knows King’s opinion on gay rights, a movement that has in some ways mirrored the Civil Rights Movement.

A few days after King’s death, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which mostly addressed which issue?

King’s death had a ripple effect around the world. Congress immediately passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, a fair housing act, which made it illegal for companies to discriminate against people due to race, religion, nationality or other factors.

January 20th is now recognized as _______.

Starting in 1986, January 20th is now celebrated as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is now recognized by all 50 states in the Union.

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