Martin Luther King’s Legacy and Societal Impact


Martin Luther King Jr. was an American civil rights activist and political leader in the mid twentieth century. He organized various mass protests and marches and actively participated in the civil rights movement. King was killed in 1968. Although he had a significant impact on the entire world, his legacy is still not fully comprehended. However, several achievements are considered to be the most notable. The main goal of this paper is to demonstrate that Martin Luther King’s impact on society was crucial and is still relevant because he achieved reforms in federal laws, promoted non-violent methods of protest, and drew the attention of the general public and international community to racial discrimination.

Non-Violent Resistance

Martin Luther King promoted non-violent resistance policies, which made the civil rights movement more effective. Such a philosophy let him and his followers stop racial segregation and marginalization. For example, King participated in the boycott of the city buses in Alabama because a bus company insisted that black people had to seat at the back of buses (Ling 53). His involvement attracted much attention to this issue, and subsequently, bus companies across the South changed their policies. After this boycott, King established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This organization promoted rights of African Americans. In 1963, he took part in the Birmingham campaign that was organized to bring attention to the integration efforts of black people (Ling 105).

King was a leader of this movement, and its non-violent actions resulted in reforms of the city’s laws. The wave of indignation convinced white authorities to give up the confrontation with black students. Also, it made business leaders change their employment policies and ended marginalization in public areas such as stores, schools, and eating houses. Non-violent protests included sit-ins and marches that led to mass arrests. The peaceful March on Washington culminated in a famous speech in which King called for just treatment and equal civil and economic rights. The speech was delivered to more than 250,000 people who came to support the civil rights movement. This march put much pressure on the federal administration, and it had to promote civil rights legislation in Congress.


King had a significant impact on civil rights. He was a leader of different civil rights movements. King was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement, and various political leaders support him, which greatly enhanced his power. King’s efforts resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibited racial, sex, and religious discrimination (Purdum 314). It also guaranteed citizens equal voter registration requirements. However, at first, this law did not work well, and King focused on the voting rights of African Americans in the South. In 1965 he organized a march in Selma that increased the number of black voters in the state of Alabama (Ling 183). He was arrested, and the participants were attacked by the police. The peaceful demonstration was forced to stop. This event changed public opinion, and many people supported King and his followers. Eventually, President Johnson had to order the military forces to protect the demonstration, and King completed the march to the Alabama State Capitol. This event caused the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This act enforced equal voting rights guaranteed by the Constitution and thus prohibited racial discrimination in voting. The Voting Rights Act is considered to be the most successful federal civil rights law in the history of the United States.

Impact on Society

King boosted the progress of the development of civil rights in the United States. He changed society and the way how white people perceive African Americans. King inspired civil rights activists not only in his country but also around the world. He changed the entire international community as he drew attention to the unjust treatment of black people and triggered various political processes that resulted in new laws aimed at stopping discrimination. In the mid twentieth century, black students had to overcome various barriers in order to complete school or college programs (Badat 345). It caused a high level of illiteracy among this population. However, King’s efforts helped to change this situation, and after his death, his followers continued working on this problem. By 1970, the number of black people with bachelor degrees had become almost two times bigger. There were other significant achievements, for example, the participation of Cheryl Brown in Miss America. She became the first African American contestant in this scholarship pageant. In addition, Barbara Jordan became the first black member of Congress, and Shirley Chisholm ran for the presidency.


King did not openly fight civil rights inequalities, though his speeches and non-violent demonstrations inspired many other activists. He united the international community, enhanced the civil rights movement, and eventually changed the course of history. King’s actions resulted in several federal laws, and his followers still promote his ideas throughout the world. Martin Luther King was a prominent figure who dedicated his life to serving people and protection of human rights.

Works Cited

Badat, Saleem. Black Student Politics: Higher Education and Apartheid from SASO to SANSCO, 1968-1990. Routledge, 2016.

Ling, Peter J. Martin Luther King, Jr. Routledge, 2015.

Purdum, Todd S. An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Henry Holt and Company, 2014.

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