Happy MLK Day: Top 7 Martin Luther King Jr Accomplishments
Martin Luther King Jr. is best known as the leader of the civil rights movement, paving the way for equality for men and women of color. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and getting his start as a Baptist minister, King spent his life fighting against segregation and discrimination, spreading a message of hope and acceptance for all, regardless of skin tone. Championing the power of nonviolent protests, Dr. King fought for equal rights for African Americans throughout the nation. While King’s accomplishments are too many to count, let’s take a look at the top seven and how they forever changed the world as we know it.
1. Broke Barriers With The Birmingham Campaign
During the 1960s, Birmingham, Alabama, was one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation, with black residents facing horrendous treatment and discrimination. At the start of 1963, King began what would later become known as the Birmingham Campaign, where citizens stood together to fight this maltreatment. When adult volunteers ran low, teens and children joined, which would become the catalyst for a horrific event that would change history. Eugene Connor, of the Birmingham Police Department, became known nationwide when he used police dogs and high-powered water jets to attack the children joining the campaign. The result was Connor losing his job and the municipal government changing the city’s discrimination and segregation laws.
2. Gave A Speech That Altered The Course Of History
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is arguably best known for his historic “I Have A Dream” speech which changed hearts and minds forever. Given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, in front of over 25,000 people, it is the most famous ad-libbed dialogue ever spoken. When a member of the audience, Mahalia Jackson, yelled, “tell them about the dream Martin!” King began speaking of a future that pulled on every heartstring in attendance. The dream speech is considered the catalyst of the civil rights movement, propelling it forward and lighting the fire for racial equality across the country.
3. Was The Youngest Person Ever To Receive The Nobel Peace Prize
Thanks to his monumental work in leading non-violent resistance against racial segregation, King became the youngest recipient ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on October 14th, 1964. Although only thirty-five at the time, his activism work gained popularity due to his emphasis on peaceful protests and nonviolent social change, proving that love and acceptance could truly change the world. Dr. King valiantly brought African Americans and white people together, breaking barriers and showing that humanity is much more than skin deep.
4. Was The Leader Of The Montgomery Bus Boycott
December 1st, 1955, is a day that would mark the beginning of the end of segregation in public spaces. Rosa Parks famously refused to leave her seat on a city bus for a white person, an act of civil disobedience that would see her jailed on the grounds of the state’s racial segregation laws. This event prompted E.D. Nixon to plan a boycott, which Martin Luther King Jr. would lead. Lasting for an astonishing 385 days, King faced virtually constant persecution, with his home being bombed, receiving countless threats, and serving jail time. On December 20th, 1956, under intense political and social pressure, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on public buses was an unconstitutional act, changing the face of public transit forever.
5. Founded the SCLC
The Montgomery Bus Boycott not only led to a life-changing U.S. Supreme Court ruling, but it also inspired Dr. King to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or SCLC. King began the conference in 1957 as a way to help coordinate peaceful protests and make them more impactful, garnering more involvement from local and national African American communities. The SCLC played a huge role in the American civil rights movement, aiding in the organization of demonstrators and coordinating sit-ins, and uniting civil rights activists and civil rights leaders, all while promoting nonviolence.
6. Led A Great March On Washington
As the representative and founder of the SCLC, King was the leading member of what is known as the “Big Six” civil rights organizations that were a part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28th, 1963. The event was a monumental success, with over 250,000 participants taking to the streets of the Capital in what would historically become the nation’s largest political rally for human rights. This groundbreaking march is hailed as a catalyst for the passage of the world-changing Civil Rights Act of 1964.
7. Changed The World Through Peaceful Protest
As the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. King was no stranger to preaching love and nonviolence. Pairing his faith with the inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi’s success through peaceful activism, Dr. King traveled to India, where he would find clarity on how to lead his future non-violent civil rights movement. Using acts like civil disobedience, King found great success, proving to the world that revolutions don’t have to be violent to change history.
Martin Luther King Jr. faced constant backlash for his views on equality, often from white people who had no problem meeting his nonviolence with violence. He was imprisoned many times, being forced from his wife, Coretta Scott King, and their children. During his time in jail, King did not sit idly; he used it to continue his work, even penning the infamous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which highlighted his dedication to the cause. Dr. King also faced backlash from African American organizations like the NAACP, which condemned him for linking the civil rights movement to opposition to the Vietnam war. Throughout it all, however, his continued dedication to equal rights earned the love and support of millions of Americans, earning King the title of “Man of the Year” in Time Magazine in 1964. On April 4th, 1968, while standing on a balcony outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, a forty-year-old white man named James Earl Ray shot and Killed Dr. King in an attempt to put an end to the growing civil rights movement. But even in death, Martin Luther King Jr’s message had the power to unite, leading to an outpouring of African Americans fighting for equality and prompting the passing of the Equal Housing Bill and the Voting Rights Act, which would become a huge civil rights achievement and put a nail in the coffin of racial segregation. America is forever changed because one man had the bravery to stand against hate and bring equality through nonviolence, peace, love, and determination.
National Day of Service
MLK Day is also known as a National Day of Service, encouraging volunteerism and philanthropic activities. People use this day to give back to their communities and remember Dr. King’s mission to create a world where love and acceptance were the driving force of everything we do. If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, consider the following:
- Working at a local food bank
- Building homes with Habitat for Humanity
- Adopting a road/ cleanup
- Helping an elderly neighbor
- Working at an animal shelter