When you think of peaceful protest, you might think of Martin Luther King Jr. But when King began organizing civil rights demonstrations in the U.S., he was following the example of another great leader: Mohandas Gandhi. 

The activist—who would have turned 150 next month—led a decades-long campaign that forced Great Britain to grant independence to India, a prized colony. 

Gandhi led protests against British rule that included marches and sit-ins. He urged Indians to boycott British goods, such as thread. Instead of buying it, Gandhi used thread he made with a spinning wheel. The wheel became a symbol of India’s fight for independence, and he was photographed with it in 1946 (above).

Gandhi’s methods paid off. In 1947, India became a free nation. But just six months later, he was murdered, at age 78. The world mourned his death, but millions of people—from King to present-day activists—have been inspired by his work.