Mapped: Largest Famous Protests in American History

The United States was created on the basis of protest (Boston Tea Party, anybody?). Therefore, the history of protest in America is as crucial as American football. The Constitution’s First Amendment even protects the right to free speech and assembly.

As the U.S.’s population has increased, so too have the sizes of protests. Let’s take a look at the various types of political protests, the 10 protests with participants in the millions (like the 2020 United States racial unrest), and, of course, their locations.

View Famous Protests in American History in a full screen map

The map displays data from Wikipedia’s List of protests in the United States by size. We divided them into 12 categories, such as gender, race, and war.

Overview of the Types & Years of Famous Protests

From climate change to war, race, and gender, among others, there have been many instigating factors for the 23 most famous—and largest—U.S. political protests. Which types of protests occurred the most? See the breakdown below.

  • Gender-related protests (4)
  • Climate change (3)
  • Race (3)
  • War (3)
  • Sexual orientation (2)
  • Gun violence (2)
Photo of Million Women’s March Chicago by bradhoc
Photo of Women’s March Boston Jan 2017 by Ryan Dorsey

Other types that appeared within the history of protest in America include abortion, Armenian genocide, organized labor, political figure scandal, satire, and trade. Each has been represented by one protest throughout the years.

Years of Famous Protests

Speaking of years, what timetable are we looking at with these protests?

As you can see, the most famous protests are pretty recent, the oldest being the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. But protests still occurred 100 years ago, just on a smaller scale. Older protests can be found on the map of major 1917 events along with those from 1918, 1919, and 1920. Now that we have a better understanding of the types and years of these famous protests, let’s take a look at the largest.

The 10 Largest Protests by Participants

The 1995 Million Man March (8th largest) saw the National Park Service and event organizers disagree over attendance. Ever since, official crowd estimates have relied on an amalgam of police data, organizer estimates, crowd scientist research, and journalists.

Now, all 23 well-known protests of America’s history had at least 40,000 protesters in attendance. However, several drew even larger crowds: think millions of participants. Below are the 10 protests with the most participants.

Protest City Estimated participants
2020 United States racial unrest Nationwide 15,000,000-26,000,000
2017 Women’s March Nationwide 3,300,000–5,600,000
March for Our Lives Nationwide 1,200,000-2,000,000
2018 Women’s March Nationwide 1,500,000
#RickyRenuncia San Juan, Puerto Rico 1,100,000
March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation Washington, D.C. 800,000–1,000,000
Anti-nuclear weapon march New York City 700,000–1,000,000
Million Man March Washington, D.C. 670,000–800,000
March for Women’s Lives Washington, D.C. 500,000–1,000,000
Million Mom March Washington, D.C. 750,000

The four best-attended protests in the U.S. occurred nationwide in cities across the country from Washington D.C. to Portland, Oregon. The largest of these also happens to be the most recent: the 2020 United States racial unrest, which includes multiple sub-protests like those for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, which resulted in various building and award name changes. This racial unrest went well-past September, but the map only includes those up to that month. We were curious about more of the specifics of these nationwide protests’ location, so we made a second map, displayed below.

Yet before nationwide protests became the norm, there were those held exclusively in Washington D.C., N.Y.C., or San Juan, PR. Though concentrated in one city, the six protests that included #RickyRenuncia (also known as Telegramgate, Chatgate, or RickyLeaks) drew more participants than the fifth and final nationwide protest: the March for Science, or #11.

Locations of the Nationwide Protests

Of the five nationwide famous protests in American history, only the March for Science missed the list of the top ten largest protests. However, its 395 individual protest locations nationwide did make it onto the map below.

View Nationwide Protests in a full screen map

While each of the nationwide political protests was made up of individual city protests, not every city recorded an attendance count.

Make Google Maps With Thousands of Markers

Whether it’s famous protests, the largest wildfires of the decade, or any number of important topics, you can better visualize location data with maps. And when it comes to maps, Google Maps reigns supreme.

Utilize Google Maps via BatchGeo, which uses the Google Maps Geocoding API to automatically map and display your data for free. For larger maps, a Pro plan supports up to 20,000 markers at a time (which we needed to create our second map of 2,000+). Learn more about how you can map multiple locations on Google Maps with just a few steps.