10 Major Accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr.


Martin Luther King is famous for leading the American Civil Rights Movement and fighting against discrimination of African Americans in the United States. Here are 10 prominent accomplishments of one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century.


#1 He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott

On December 1, 1955 an African American woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white person and was arrested due to the racial segregation laws. This led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott which was planned by E.D. Nixon and led by Martin Luther King. The boycott lasted for 385 days. During this time King was arrested, his home was bombed and he was subjected to personal abuse and threats. The protest ended on December 20, 1956 with the US Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional.

Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King
Rosa Parks with King (1955)


#2 King was the first President of SCLC

Inspired by the bus boycott, King, along with other civil rights activists, founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957 to coordinate their efforts. King was the president of SCLC till his assassination in 1968. The SCLC had a large role in the American Civil Rights Movement.


#3 He led the Birmingham Campaign

Till the 1960s Birmingham was one of the most racially divided cities in US. Black citizen’s faced discrimination both legally and culturally. In early 1963 King started a movement against this which is known as the Birmingham Campaign. When the campaign ran low on adult volunteers, it recruited young students and even children. The campaign gained nationwide attention when the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene “Bull” Connor, used high-pressure water jets and police attack dogs on the children. The movement ended with Connor losing his job and the municipal government changing the city’s discriminatory laws.

King following his 1963 arrest in Birmingham
King following his 1963 arrest in Birmingham


#4 He was instrumental in organizing The Great March on Washington

King represented SCLC and was one of the leaders of the ‘Big Six’ civil rights organizations who organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march took place in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. It was a resounding success with over 250,000 participants, making it was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in US history. It motivated other marches and laid the stepping stone to the passage of Civil Rights Act (1964).

March on Washington
The Great March on Washington (1963)


#5 His speech intensified the Civil Rights Movement

During the March on Washington, Martin Luther King delivered the famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a gathering of over 250,000 people. In the speech’s most famous passage, King departed from written text at Mahalia Jackson’s cry: “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” The speech is considered the defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. It was ranked the top American speech in a 1999 poll of scholars.

Inscription at the Point of I have a Dream Speech
The location on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial from which King delivered the speech is commemorated with this inscription


#6 King was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963

In its January 1964 issue, Time named Martin Luther King, Jr., ”Man of the Year” for 1963 recognizing him as a fearless leader who fought to bring equality in America. He was the first African American recipient of this honor. Martin saw it not as a personal honor but as a tribute to the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King on TIME Magazine
King was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963


#7 He was behind African Americans getting basic civil rights

Martin Luther King organized and led many marches for the voting right of blacks, desegregation, labor rights and other basic civil rights. His efforts bore fruit when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were passed and most of these rights were enacted into law.

Signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Behind him is Martin Luther King.


#8 He became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize

On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for leading non-violent resistance to racial prejudice in the U.S. At the age of thirty-five, he was the youngest recipient of the award at the time.

King with the Nobel Prize
King with the Nobel Prize


#9 He achieved success using non-violent methods of protest

King was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s success with non-violent activism. His trip to India made him understand non-violent resistance better and he was convinced that that was the way forward for achieving civil rights for American blacks. King was hugely successful in achieving his goals through civil disobedience and other such practices. This enhanced the stature of non-violent methods of protest throughout the world.

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi


#10 Martin Luther King became the symbolic leader of African Americans

From 1957 till his assassination, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice. He led many protests and wrote five books and several articles. He was renowned worldwide as the symbolic leader of African Americans.

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