How Martin Luther King Jr. Made the World a Better in Place in Just 10 Years (And How You Can Too)

Photo courtesy of the National Archives
Photo courtesy of the National Archives

by Michael Hyatt

When Martin Luther King Jr. accepted the ministerial call from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, he was just twenty-five years old.


That was 1954. What King accomplished over the next decade would radically reshape American society and provide an example and inspiration for us today. So what was his secret?

Changing the World in Just 10 Years

A year after he arrived in Montgomery, Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a public bus, and King led the Montgomery bus boycott to end segregation. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the boycotters in 1956.

A year later in 1957 King formed and led the Southern Christian Leaders Conference, which helped organize the burgeoning civil rights movement. He also spoke before his first national audience and made the cover of Time magazine.

But that was only the beginning. King’s organizing and protest work continued in the late fifties and early sixties with sit-ins and protests, culminating in the events of 1963.

In April King was arrested in Birmingham for disobeying a ban on demonstrations. When he came under fire from local ministers, he responded with one of his most important and memorable works, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

A few months later, he led the March on Washington, attended by over 200,000 people. 1963 was the hundred year anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and King gave his stirring “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The demonstration galvanized nationwide support for civil rights. Earlier that summer President John F. Kennedy introduced the nation’s most sweeping civil rights legislation to date, and the impact of the march and King’s advocacy was instrumental in its passage in 1964.

If that wasn’t enough, Time picked King as its man of the year, and the Nobel committee made him the youngest-ever recipient of the Peace Prize.

All in ten years! He was just thirty-five years old, and there was more work to do, but he’d already turned the world upside down. How did he do it?

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