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Thoreau, Henry David

b. 1817 - d. 1862

Henry David Thoreau, a philosopher, naturalist, social reformer and author, is best known for Walden, or Life in the Woods, his account of two years in the wilderness in his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts. There, in a small, self-built house, he observed nature and experimented with simple living. Thoreau studied at Harvard, taught grammar school, and with his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson led the Transcendentalist movement. He was arrested in 1846 for refusing to pay the poll tax in protest against slavery and the Mexican-American War. His night in jail prompted him to write Civil Disobedience, an essay that contends individuals ought not to surrender their consciences to the majority or to the government. If a law “is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another,” he states, “then, I say, break the law.” Thoreau’s thinking on civil disobedience greatly influenced Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. King.

Associated Archive Content : 34 results

"Dr. King Outdated"

This editorial reviews Dr. King's last book, "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" Under the heading "Dr. King Outdated." The review expresses Mr. Bob Smith's disagreement with many themes of the book.

"The American Dream"

This transcription of the commencement address delivered by Dr. King at Lincoln University on June 6 1961.

Address by MLK to American Jewish Committee

In this speech, Dr. King addresses the Civil Rights Movement and the use of nonviolent demonstration tactics. He distinguishes between civil disobedience, which involves breaking laws that one does not agree with, and nonviolent demonstration, which involves using one's right to protest. He states that nonviolent protest is inherently American, citing examples from the Civil War, the Suffragettes, and the American Jewish Committee's own lobbying from the early 20th Century.

America's Chief Moral Dilemma

In this 1967 speech to the Hungry Club, Dr. King addresses America’s chief moral dilemma by focusing on three major evils: racism, poverty, and war.

Anti-Slavery and Reform Papers

Harvest House Limited, a publishing company, announce the release of Henry David Thoreau's essay collection regarding anti-slavery and reform.

David T. Doherty Letter of Request to Dr. King

Mr. Deherty, a PH.D candidate at Stanford University, asks Dr. King if he will answer a few questions regarding the influence of Henry David Thoreau on his philosophy of non-violence.

Dr. King Does Know Where We're Going

In this letter to the editor, Rev. W. Alfred Wilkins responds to a recent editorial, which reviewed Dr. King's book "Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?" Rev. Wilkins explains why he disagrees with the previous editorial, and he summarizes several chapters he considers relevant.

Draft: The Time for Freedom Has Come

In this draft of Dr. King's article, "The Time for Freedom Has Come," he discusses the role of African American students in the Civil Rights Movement. He praises the commitment and determination of students and credits them with the desegregation of lunch counters. He also identifies with the students' frustration with the slowness of forward progress in the struggle for equality. The article was published in New York Times Magazine on September 10, 1961.

Examination for MLK Class

This document contains examination questions for Dr. King's class. Dr. King taught a class at Morehouse College briefly in the early 1960s.

Hungry Club Speech

This document is a draft copy of Dr. King's Hungry Club Speech, in which he speaks on the subject "America's Chief Moral Dilemma." He states that the dilemma is "the means by which we live have out distanced the ends for which we live." Dr. King thoroughly discusses the three major evils that contribute to this dilemma: the evil of racism, the evil poverty, and the evil of war. He also discusses the progress of the Civil Rights Movement as it enters a new phase of fighting for "genuine equality."

Letter from Angie Elizabeth Shelton to MLK

Mrs. Shelton expresses her gratitude to Dr. King for renewing her faith. After reading one of Dr. King's books, she states that she felt herself beginning to believe. Mrs. Shelton has decided to buy and study "Civil Disobedience" thanks to Dr. King.

Letter from Anthony Cama to Dora McDonald

Anthony Cama, a member of the Order of Sons of Italy in America, encloses American philosopher Henry David Thoreau's article on slavery.

Letter From Christine Heath to MLK

Ms. Christine Heath, a high school student, asks for information on how "Civil Disobedience," by Henry David Thoreau, has affected Dr. King.

Letter from Glenda Stultz to MLK

Glenda Stultz asks Dr. King to send her information about how he was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau. She requests the information for a research paper, which she must complete in order to graduate.

Letter from Linda Robinson to MLK

Linda Robinson, a sixth grade student at Lincoln School in California, writes Dr. King expressing her admiration towards him for his work with the Civil Rights Movement.

Letter from Maynard Gertler to MLK

Maynard Gertler writes Dr. King requesting a copy of his speech given during the March on Washington. Additionally Gertler requests speeches by Baynard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph. Gertler also mentions that he was present when Dr. King spoke in Montreal last year.

Letter from Maynard Gertler to MLK

Maynard Gertler writes Dr. King to request a transcript of his speech given during the March on Washington. Gertler also discusses a book by Henry Thoreau that is to be published in the near future.

Letter from MLK to Walter Harding

Dr. King expresses his deep appreciation for the dedication of Walter Hardin's book. Walter Hardin was considered a distinguished professor and scholar at State University College of Geneseo, New York.

Letter from Steve Addams to MLK

Steve Addams writes Dr. King expressing his gratitude for Dr. King's work. Addams also offers his condolences for the death of Martin Luther King, Sr.

Letter from Thomas Wilkins to MLK

Thomas Wilkins suggests that Dr. King consider pursuing an initiative against taxation in Alabama. He proposes that any Negro who is refused voter registration should not pay any taxes in the state.

MKL At Zoin Hill - "The Ballot"

This transcript of a passionate, poetic, and inspiring speech touches on many of King's motifs. It starts with an appeal for voting rights, addresses the despair the audience feels from time to time, and ends with a refrain of "we shall overcome."

MLK in Memoriam

Following Dr. King's assassination, this tribute highlights King's life and the impact he had on the world. It includes a reading from "The Negro American: A Documentary History," an audio recording of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech" and his eulogy. test2

Paul's Letter to American Christians

This is a sermon chapter and possible draft for Dr. King's book "Strength to Love." Dr. King writes from the perspective of Paul the Apostle. Through the words of King, Paul speaks to modern day American Christians and challenges them to uphold true Christian values. Paul notes the presence of economic, scientific, and technological development, yet questions the contradiction of social injustices in a society that seems so advanced.

Paul's Letter to American Christians

Dr. King shares "Paul's Letter to American Christians" with the congregation of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. In this contemporary letter revised by Dr. King, Apostle Paul writes concerning the "responsibilities of Americans to live as Christians." He discusses his appreciation for America, the danger of capitalism, communism, segregation in churches, and the many denominations of Protestantism. But above all things, Apostle Paul believes that love is the most "durable power in the world."

Prospectus for Department of Affiliates

Herbert Coulton, Director of Affiliates, gives members of the SCLC a list of requirements for positions within the organization.

SCLC: Tenth Annual Convention

This program denotes the key leaders for the Tenth Annual Convention of the SCLC held in Jackson, Mississippi. It also outlines the timeline of events for the four-day convention, noting a foreword written by Dr. King.

Social Justice in Modern Society

In the following document, Dr. King comments on the "social stagnation" of the world, despite impressive advances in science and technology. He believes that without moral character and social justice, civilization will self-destruct.

Teacher's Manual: Civil Disobedience, Morality, and the Coming of the Civil War

Muriel Moulton of Chicago, Illinois provides a course manual for teaching civil disobedience and morality leading up to the American Civil War. Moulton does not assign a value to the morality of civil disobedience, but only poses the question while providing primary sources for interpretation.

Telegram from Delmer Brown to MLK

Due to recent student activities at the University of California, Berkeley, Mr. Brown requests Dr. King's involvement in a lecture series devoted to discussing issues concerning civil disobedience.

The Domestic Impact of the War in America

In his address to the National Labor Leadership Assembly for Peace, Dr. King parallels the war in Vietnam to the injustice and violence inflicted on urban dwelling American Negroes "goaded and infuriated by discrimination and neglect." King implores Congress and the Johnson Administration to reassess the nation's domestic priorities and institute anti-poverty programs, so that the Great Society does not deteriorate into a "troubled and confused society."

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