He promoted a vision of equal rights under the law in public accommodations and eliminating segregation throughout America, ignoring the differences in skin color
To work toward this goal, King helped to popularize the technique of nonviolent confrontations based on his reading of Gandhi, Whitman and others which combined with his organizing abilities helped to bring about successes. King’s techniques for non-violent confrontations are explored here.
During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced.
Here’s a sermon Catherine preached in April, 2018 on the 50th anniversary of his death.
Here are 10 accomplishments of his life:
1. King played a crucial role in organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955
One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s earliest accomplishments was his pivotal role in organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. The boycott was triggered by the arrest of Rosa Parks, an African American woman who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus.
King, as the president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, led the boycott, urging African Americans to boycott the city’s bus system to protest racial segregation.
The boycott lasted for 381 days and demonstrated the power of nonviolent resistance, resulting in a Supreme Court ruling that declared racial segregation on public buses unconstitutional.
King learned first hand of the dangers present in the campaign.
On January 30, 1956, during the bus boycott, white supremacists firebombed Dr. King’s house while Dr. King was away speaking. His wife Coretta Scott King and their baby daughter Yolanda were at home but escaped without injury. When he returned, he spoke to an angry crowd that had gathered at his house. He told them to go home, saying “We must learn to meet hate with love.” Five days later, he received a telegram from Julian Grayson, an undergraduate classmate at Crozer Theological Society who had become a Methodist minister. It read simply, “FIGHT ON AMOS GOD IS WITH YOU.”
His first book, Stride Toward Freedom, published in 1958, shed light on his calling:
“Any discussion of the Christian minister today must ultimately emphasize the need for prophecy. Not every minister can be a prophet, but some must be prepared for the ordeals of this high calling and be willing to suffer courageously for righteousness. May the problem of race in America soon make hearts burn so that prophets will rise up, saying, “Thus saith the Lord,” and cry out as Amos did, “. . . let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
2. King co-founded the SCLC in 1957
In 1957, Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The organization aimed to harness the power of black churches to fight against racial injustice and segregation.
King served as the first president of the SCLC and utilized its platform to promote nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience as effective strategies for social change.
Under King’s leadership, the SCLC organized protests, marches, and voter registration drives across the South, becoming a significant force in the civil rights movement.
The SCLC’s emphasis on nonviolent activism and its commitment to integrating religious principles with political activism were key contributions to the broader movement.
3. In 1963, King penned the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
In April 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested during a nonviolent protest in Birmingham, Alabama. While in jail, King wrote the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in response to a statement by eight white clergymen criticizing the civil rights protests.
In the letter, King eloquently defended the necessity of direct action and nonviolent resistance in the face of injustice. He outlined the moral and legal arguments for civil disobedience, emphasizing the urgency of fighting for racial equality.
The letter not only addressed the specific situation in Birmingham but also became a powerful and widely circulated text that inspired countless individuals to join the struggle for civil rights.
4. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic and influential “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
The march was a massive gathering of approximately 250,000 people, making it one of the largest political rallies for human rights in American history.
King’s speech, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, resonated with its powerful imagery, stirring rhetoric, and impassioned call for racial harmony and equality.
His vision of a future where individuals are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin became an iconic expression of the civil rights movement’s goals.
5. In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35.
In 1964, at the age of 35, Martin Luther King Jr. became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was awarded the prestigious honor in recognition of his tireless efforts to combat racial inequality and promote civil rights through nonviolent means.
King’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize brought international attention to the civil rights struggle in the United States, further elevating his status as a global symbol of peace, justice, and equality..
6. King and the SCLC were instrumental in advocating for the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference played a crucial role in advocating for the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
This landmark legislation aimed to address and dismantle systemic barriers that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote, such as literacy tests and poll taxes.
King led numerous campaigns and marches, including the historic Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama in 1965, which drew national attention to the cause.
The Voting Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, aimed to secure and protect voting rights for all citizens, regardless of race, and remains a significant achievement in the fight against racial discrimination and voter suppression.
7. King expanded his civil rights efforts beyond the South and led a campaign in Chicago in 1966.
In 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. expanded his civil rights efforts beyond the South and turned his attention to tackling racial discrimination in housing.
He initiated the Chicago Open Housing Movement, which aimed to challenge the widespread practice of racial segregation in housing and advocate for fair housing opportunities for African Americans.
King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference organized protests, marches, and demonstrations in Chicago to draw attention to the issue.
The movement faced significant resistance and hostility from white supremacist groups and faced challenges in achieving its goals. Nonetheless, King’s efforts helped raise awareness about housing discrimination and paved the way for subsequent fair housing legislation.
8. King initiated the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968 linking economic justice to racial justice.
In 1968, just months before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. launched the Poor People’s Campaign. This campaign aimed to address economic inequality and poverty in America, recognizing that racial justice was intrinsically linked to economic justice.
King sought to bring together people of diverse backgrounds, including African Americans, white Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos, to advocate for fair wages, affordable housing, and job opportunities.
The campaign organized a series of protests and a march on Washington, D.C., demanding economic reforms and social programs to uplift the poor. Although King did not live to see the campaign’s long-term impact, it served as a call to action for addressing poverty and economic disparities in the United States.
9. King connected Vietnam to the racial justice issues.
King’s opposition to the Vietnam War became a prominent part of his public persona. On April 4, 1967—exactly one year before his death—he gave a speech called “Beyond Vietnam” in New York City, in which he proposed a stop to the bombing of Vietnam. King also suggested that the United States declare a truce with the aim of achieving peace talks, and that the U.S. set a date for withdrawal.
10. King’s books contributed to the movement -Stride Toward Freedom (1958) Why We Can’t Wait” (1964)