School of History, Politics and International Relations

Things you probably don’t know about the US Civil Rights Movement

Professor George Lewis, tells us things we probably didn’t know about Martin Luther King Jr. and the US Civil Rights Movement.

Video transcript

My name is George Lewis. I am Professor of American History at the University of Leicester.

So you may well have learnt about the US Civil Rights Movement at school, but here are some things that you probably never knew:

  • Although we remember Martin Luther King Jr. as a disciple of non-violence, the first people to visit him in Montgomery, called his house "an arsenal of weapons".
  • King once applied for his own gun permit.
  • King also once concussed one of his own siblings with a telephone receiver during a family squabble.
  • Martin Luther King was a 40-a-day smoker, although he tried his best to hide that from the public, because he didn't agree with smoking.
  • King once flung himself off a second storey window in an attempted suicide when he was 12 years old. His grandmother had just died and he wanted to join her in the afterlife.
  • Martin Luther King's favourite film was The Sound of Music.
  • The march on Washington at which King gave his famous 'I have a dream' speech, was sabotaged in two different ways: 1) externally when someone tried to ruin the PA system that delivered the sound 2) internally by another student leader called John Lewis who wanted to deliver a speech so incendiary and radical that most of the other speakers refused to join him on stage.
  • The start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott was organised almost entirely by women. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was not originally organised in order to end segregation on Montgomery's buses.

If you'd like to know even more about the US Civil Rights Movement then sign up and come and do one of our courses at the University of Leicester.

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