Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has its roots in the South Indian Liberal Federation (Justice Party), which was formed in 1916 by P. Thiyagarayar, Dr.P. T Rajan, Dr. Natesanar and few others. The objectives of the party were 'social equality and justice'. The Justice party first came into power in 1920 with the General Elections. E. V. Ramasami Naicker (known as "Periyar"), a popular Tamil leader of Congress, joined the Justice party in 1935.
In 1937 the Justice Party lost after the elections, and the Indian National Congress under C. Rajagopalachari ("Rajaji") came to power in Madras Presidency. At the Salem Provincial Conference held in August 1944, Periyar carved out the "Dravida Kazhagham" from the Justice Party. But a revolt within the party took place and as a result several of his followers decided to split from Dravida Kazhagham, under the leadership of C. N. Annadurai. On September 17, 1949 Annadurai along with M. Karunanidhi, V. R. Nedunchezhiyan, K.A.Mathialagan, K. Anbazhagan, E.V.K. Sampath and thousands of others announced the formation of the DMK in Robinson Park in Royapuram,Chennai.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was established on the principles and aims of the Justice Party and Dravidar Kazhagam. The motto of DMK was to demolish the cause of socially and economically disadvantaged sections of the society. They also demanded a separate "Dravida Nadu" state. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party works actively in favour of 'reservation for the backward classes for social upliftment'. Their continuous attempts resulted in reservation up to 69% which is considered the highest rate of reservation in the country.
The charismatic persona M.G.Ramachandran was a member of the DMK. He was looked at as an icon of DMK and also spread its message through films like Anbe Vaa. It was M.G.Ramachandran who disseminated the party flag and symbol by showing it in his movies. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam came to power in 1967.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam embraced a more national outlook, as time passed on; they switched towards coalition governments in the national political scenario. The party fought for the cause of Tamil language and culture, and used its national punch to make Government of India declare Tamil as a classical language. The DMK is also benevolent towards the breakaway struggle for Tamil Eelam. It split over the past three decades into the AIADMK in the 1970s and the MDMK in the 1990s.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam experienced a war of succession that took place between the sons of Karunanidhi - Stalin and Azhagiri. It came into public-eye in early 2007.