1. March on Washington
In 1963, Dr. King achieved perhaps his most important accomplishment when he helped lead over 200,000 people to the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the Washington Monument. The march was organized by King and groups of civil rights, labor and religious organizations in order to gain civil and economic equality for African-Americans. It was here where King made his historic “I Have a Dream” speech which called for an end to racism. The march was crucial in helping to pass the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
2. Montgomery Bus Boycott
On the same day that Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person, King led the boycott on the Montgomery, Ala., bus system. The boycott, which lasted over a year, was a political and social protest against racial segregation. It eventually led to a Supreme Court ruling that dubbed segregated buses unconstitutional. King was arrested for leading the protest, he underwent abuse and multiple threats, and his home was even bombed. But his determination for justice and equality never stopped him in his fight.
3. Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Dr. King served as the first president of the SCLC following the Montgomery Bus Boycott. King founded the African-American civil rights organization in order to support nonviolent protests for equality. The SCLC consisted of ministers and other church leaders in Atlanta. At first, its focus was exclusively on buses, but eventually expanded its goals to end all forms of segregation. Under King’s guidance, the SCLC peacefully organized mass protest campaigns, voter registration drives and fought for equality.
4. Birmingham Campaign
The SCLC promoted this strategic effort to end the Birmingham’s segregated civil and discriminatory economic policies. The campaign began with a boycott on local businesses to pressure them to desegregate. When the boycott initially failed, King and the SCLC started “Project C,” a series of sit-ins and marches. Although protests turned violent at some points, with Birmingham police using brutal force to control protestors, the campaign was an immense success. King’s reputation improved, Jim Crow laws ended and public businesses and restaurants became more open to African-American patrons.
5. Nobel Peace Prize
After his years of historic accomplishments and triumphs, King was honored with the distinguished award in 1964. His active and dynamic leadership, highlighted by his nonviolent tactics, helped him earn the prize. Receiving the award was a testament that nonviolence was the best method in achieving peace and equality. At 35, King was the youngest man to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In classic MLK style, he used his prize money to help the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement. King won several awards in his lifetime, but the peace prize was inarguably his greatest one.