7 Greatest Martin Luther King Achievements That May Surprise You

October 20, 2021 7 min read

7 Great Achievements of Martin Luther King That Might Surprise You

Referring to Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968), many people will immediately think of his famous speech "I have a dream". But few people know that, besides this speech, this human rights activist also left behind many other treasured legacies. 

Not only did he spearhead a series of civil rights movements centered on nonviolent protest, but Martin Luther King achievements of equality and civil disobedience also changed the world for all the oppressed. He changed the lives of African-Americans forever. 

Martin Luther King by caboindex is licensed under CC BY 2.0

During his lifetime, King achieved many extraordinary achievements in the fight for equal rights for African Americans. 

Below are 7 of the most outstanding achievements of Pastor Martin Luther King: 

Table of Contents

Marched in Washington D.C & Gave The “I Have a Dream” Speech 

In 1963, Pastor Luther King led a peaceful march of more than 200,000 people in Washington, DC, from the Lincoln Monument to the Washington Museum. This can be considered as the greatest success of this young activist. The march organized by Pastor Luther King attracted the participation of a variety of human rights groups, workers, and religious organizations to achieve social and economic justice for African Americans. 

Also in this march, Pastor Luther King gave the historic "I Have A Dream" speech, calling for an end to racism. The march played an important role in pressing the US Congress to pass the Human Rights Act, which regulates discriminatory activities based on race, color, religion, sex is illegal. 

Public Domain: Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. at 1963 March on Washington by USIA (NARA) by pingnews.com is marked with CC PDM 1.0

The "I Have a Dream" speech is perhaps the best, most eloquent speech ever given by Pastor Martin Luther King, Jr. Not only that but this speech in 1999 was also ranked by 137 scholars of the art of rhetoric as the first in the 100 best speeches of America in the 20th century. 

In the historic protest demanding civil rights and Black equality in America, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King expressed his dream in front of an audience of nearly 250,000. At that moment, there was no scuffle between the police force and the protesters. Participants in the demonstration were not only black people, but nearly 63,000 white people also attended the rally. The speech gathered nearly a third of a million people. 

Rowland Scherman , CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This speech made the world pay close attention to racism in America for the first time in history. Not only that, but Martin's messages are also a strong inspiration for many movements of class, gender, and race to fight injustice and exploitation afterward. 

Organized the Montgomery Boycott Campaign 

The Montgomery bus boycott laid a pivotal foundation for a new anti-racism approach. It was also the starting point of Martin Luther King Jr., the most successful leader of the black civil rights movement even until decades after his assassination. 

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusal to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. Soon after, together with Ralph Abernathy - a minister and another prominent figure of the civil rights movement - King Jr. and Nixon organized a black conference and announced the initiative of the boycott campaign towards the Montgomery bus company. 

Rosa Parks with Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

After Rosa Park continued to reject the unjust sentence imposed on her, the leaders of the boycott at the time assessed the need for an organization to direct the boycott. Their aim is simple: the strategic long-term struggle to create the preconditions for real change. These civil rights activists later founded the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). Martin Luther King then was selected to be its first leader. 

This boycott campaign, which lasted for more than a year, was a political and social movement against racism. Thanks to pressure from this campaign, the US Supreme Court ruling that the racist bus service was unconstitutional. Pastor King then was jailed for leading this protest, he has suffered abuse, threats to bomb his own home. But it was his determination for justice for black people that made him never give up his fight.

Black residents walking, Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955, Fair use image

The Bus Boycotts inspired a string of similarly organized and successful protests across the country. More importantly, this movement shed light on the idea of nonviolent resistance. Pastor Martin's most treasured achievement is to have completely replaced the conventional protest manner with a brand-new form of resistance. His method of nonviolent struggle has proven effective even until nowadays. 

Was President of Renowned African American Human Rights Organization 

Pastor Luther King was the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He founded this African-American human rights organization to support nonviolent accountability for justice. SCLC also engaged a number of pastors and church leaders in Atlanta. 

Initially, the organization mainly focused on racist concerns at bus systems, but eventually, SCLC has expanded its focus to ending all forms of racism. Under the direction of Pastor Luther King, SCLC organized many peaceful and organized mass protest campaigns intending to register to vote and fight for equality. 

This party was involved in many civil rights campaigns. They organized citizenship schools to improve African Americans' literacy to pass voter tests. It also conducted various protests to end racial segregation in Birmingham, Ala. This organization then played an essential role in supporting the historic 1963 march in Washington to end segregation across the country. 

The organization also contributed to the Selma Suffrage Campaign in 1963, the 1965 protest in Montgomery, and the 1967 Poor People's Campaign, reflecting King's growing interest in addressing issues to an economic degree. In essence, many of the King's accomplishments are direct from his involvement in SCLC.

The organization was regarded one of the "Big Five" civil rights organizations during its peak in the 1960s. In addition to SCLC, the Big Five include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Urban League, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Congress on Racial Equality. 

Fought to remove the racist Jim Crow laws 

One of Martin Luther King's other major contributions was the abolition of the Jim Crow segregation laws. The SCLC led by Martin promoted this strategic effort to end discriminatory economic and civil policies in Birmingham. 

The campaign started with boycotting local businesses to pressure them to end their racist policies. When the boycott met initial failure, Pastor King and SCLC began “Project C” – a series of sit-ins and marches. The campaign then turned into a lengthy march and violence was recorded. 

"Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr." by U.S. Embassy New Delhi is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Although this protest led to police conflict at some points, and Birmingham used violence to control protesters, the campaign was relatively successful. Under considerable pressure, businesses and public restaurants opened their doors to serve African-American customers. Luther King's reputation was then enhanced, the Jim Crow laws were ended, and public businesses and restaurants opened to serve African American customers. 

Supported the Black Sanitation Workers’ Strike in Memphis 

On 12th February 1968, protests by black sanitation workers in Memphis began. These workers had always worked in harsh and unsanitary conditions with hard work and lower wages than their white counterparts. Many people have been abused, insulted, discriminated against, and fired for no reason. 

Martin Luther King supported this strike by demanding equal wages for black workers. He also participated in the anti-discrimination marches of this group of workers. The incident shook the country until it was canceled in April. The sanitation workers' requests were eventually met. 

Gallantly Campaigned in Birmingham 

Martin Luther King accomplished yet another significant feat during his valiant civil rights fight in Birmingham. At the time, racism was at its height in Birmingham, Alabama. African-Americans faced a wide range of prejudice. Martin Luther launched the "Birmingham Campaign" in 1963 to address the racial problem. They enlisted the help of younger members, including small children, to help with the campaign. 

As events in their nonviolent protests progressed, Birmingham police deployed canines and high-velocity water jets to spray protesters, including small children. Images on television of the amateurish police reaction elicited sympathy from several white residents. The chief of police (Connor) was fired. 

On April 12, 1963, Pastor Martin was detained by police on the allegation of "creating a public commotion." Some white preachers immediately chastised him for organizing unlawful marches after he was imprisoned. 

Birmingham AL police dept, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

King indignantly denied the charge they were trying to put on him. At the same time, during the days of his incarceration, he wrote the "Letter from Birmingham Jail" to his fellow pastors, as a wonderful sermon on civil disobedience, a call to defend the "natural law", respecting human rights, and justice. Just in 11 days in prison, he wrote one of the most inspiring works in American history. 

Although Martin Luther King was jailed on numerous occasions, there were improvements in Birmingham. Discriminatory laws were repealed, and black people were increasingly accepted. 

Won the Nobel Peace Prize 

After many years of historic achievements and successes, Pastor Luther King was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Being an active and dynamic leader who devoted his whole life to nonviolent resistance action, Pastor King was the most commendable candidate for this prestigious award. Pastor King is the third black candidate, the second American, and the youngest person in history to be granted. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964, Public Domain

Receiving the Nobel Peace Prize is apparent proof that King's ideal is the best way to achieve peace and equality. The pastor then used the bounty to help improve the effectiveness of the Human Rights Movement. This outstanding prize catapulted the modern Civil Rights Movement into a global scale. 

Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. by U.S. Embassy New Delhi is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life sought to raise public consciousness to end racism and discrimination. America since Martin Luther King is no longer the America of before, but an America towards civil rights, freedom, and equality. 

Not only in the black community, but the thoughts of Pastor Martin are also a great source of inspiration to people all over the world to strive for the betterment of society, in which people can live in peace and happiness. 

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear”. 

Martin Luther King


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