martin luther king jr and civil disobedience
To advance their cause, students have participated in traditional forms of protest such as sit-ins, petitions, print media, radio and TV, and served on special university-established faculty/student committees. They have also used emerging technology—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.—to quickly engage a larger group and create a new consciousness nation-wide.
Through the large-scale application of the principles of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience, Dr. King led many mass protests, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington.
2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation—not victory.
From his adolescence to the end of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr., found inspiration in the promise inherent in the Declaration of Independence, although he was acutely aware that for black Americans, that promise had gone unfulfilled. In his very first public speech (as a prizewinner in his high school’s oratory contest), King protested that decades after Emancipation, “Black America still lives in chains.” For the remainder of his secondary and advanced education, he searched for the proper means, as he put it in that initial speech, to “cast down the last barrier to perfect freedom.” [REF]
According to Rawls, an act of civil disobedience is necessary when someone is exposed to deliberate injustice over an extended period where the injustice is in violation of political citizenship, and when protesting would be appropriate given similar circumstances for another individual or situation. Civil disobedience usually stirs up the anger of the majority, and may be especially problematic if the timing is inappropriate.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that segregation is unjust because it “distorts the soul and damages the personality” (King). The person who participates in the act of segregation has a false sense of superiority over the oppressed. As a result, the oppressed person develops a sense of inferiority. Therefore, segregation is unjust, immoral, reprehensible, and a sin against God and humanity. The famous existential theologian, Paul Tillich defined sin as separation from God. Segregation is separation, therefore, segregation is sin. Sin is morally wrong and must not be condoned. Therefore, people should protest against segregation.
The reluctance of their closest friends to act deeply disappointed them. All three produced their most profound thoughts during times of imprisonment. All three expressed disappointment with the church for not translating its message of love into concrete action on behalf of the oppressed. All three died martyrs’ deaths.
“But there’s another America as well, one that understands itself as a distinctive culture, rather than just a set of political propositions. This America speaks English, not Spanish or Chinese or Arabic. It looks back to a particular religious heritage: Protestantism originally, and then a Judeo-Christian consensus that accommodated Jews and Catholics as well. It draws its social norms from the mores of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora — and it expects new arrivals to assimilate themselves to these norms, and quickly.
Every year the third Monday of January is designated as a federal holiday in the United States in honour of Martin Luther King Jr. Aside from Gandhi, King’s name is the one most often associated with nonviolent civil disobedience. But his legacy is misunderstood if this is the end of the discussion and if the context within which his tactics were successful is left in the dustbin of history.
It is in this same sense of a middle path that Gandhi famously said, “nonviolence is a weapon of the strong.” This is not to say that nonviolence is always the correct tactic, something for pacifists with a strong sense of moral certitude to consistently follow regardless of the context. Rather, this statement means that nonviolence is a tactic best employed by protest and resistance movements that are in a position of strength. King’s civil rights movement, similarly to Ghandi’s independence movement, found itself in a position of strength—and in fact drew strength from the more militant Black Nationalists.