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Civil Disobedience

Civil disobedience is the active, public, conscientious breach of the
law to bring about a change in law or public policy. Henry David
Thoreau coined the term in 1848 in his essay about his refusal as an
abolitionist to pay the poll tax. Thoreau argued that citizens ought
deliberately to break laws that conflict with their moral beliefs.
Gandhi used nonviolent civil disobedience to protest racial pass laws
in South Africa and in India’s independence struggle, including
the famous Salt March against the British monopoly on salt. Dr. King
and others made civil disobedience a cornerstone of the Civil Rights
Movement, defying Jim Crow laws through sit-ins, violating laws and
court orders prohibiting marches and boycotts, and accepting jail
sentences to highlight racial injustice. In his Letter from Birmingham
Jail, King explains the moral arguments for civil disobedience and
distinguishes between just and unjust laws.

Associated Archive Content : 134 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 King Outdated"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 King Outdated."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.

"Rev. King Jumps Back into the Act"

This article expresses how Dr. King wants to take the attention off of the militants and place the focus back on non-violent expression.

"The Drum Major Instinct" Ebenezer Baptist Church

The Drum Major Instinct, a sermon delivered by Dr. King at the Atlanta Ebenezer Baptist Church, frames the “instinct” as being responsible for the social ills of the world. Dr. King proclaims that racial inequality in America and the war in Vietnam are the result of nations engaging in a “bitter colossal contest for supremacy.” He suggests that the only way to end this “suicidal thrust” is to abide by an altered definition of the instinct – the definition of Jesus Christ.

A Message from Jail

After being arrested and charged with parading without a license, Dr. King wrote a column from jail. The column shared his and Ralph David Abernathy's decision to serve the jail sentence instead of paying a fine of $178.

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.

Address for the Formation of the Gandhi Society for Human Rights

This address was delivered by Dr. King at the Formation of the Gandhi Society for Human Rights event on May 17, 1962. Dr. King opens by discussing various anniversaries that coincide with the event and represent similar struggles for justice including the Supreme Court school desegregation ruling, the Emancipation Proclamation, and Henry David Thoreau's death.

Albany Movement Position Paper

The Albany Movement expresses the damages of segregation and outlines their requests for peaceful integration.

Annual Report by MLK

Dr. King illustrates in his annual report the innovative changes that have occurred within the country, as well as the world. He also expresses the Republican stand point on civil rights and the constant concern of racism.

Annual Report Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Operation Breadbasket, unemployment, poverty, nonviolence, Negro voter registration, and a financial report are just several of the topics covered in this informational pamphlet detailing the ways in which monies were divided amongst the many functions of the SCLC.

Anonymous Letter to MLK

An anonymous individual sends Dr. King newspaper clippings showing African-Americans participating in looting and violence. Dr. King is asked to review the articles and offer comments via television.

Anonymous Letter to MLK

The author suggests that Dr. King focus on six specific things to accomplish in 1968.

Antidotes For Fear

Dr. King uses this sermon to discuss the causation of human fears while identifying four ways in which these shortcomings can be combated. He does not promote the eradication of all human fears, for some are essential to creation and innovation. However, Dr. King encourages the elimination of unfounded fears as a method to overcome adversities that are experienced in life.

Background Paper on the Student Sit-in Protest Movement

The Division of Racial Minorities and the Division of Christian Citizenship of the National Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church give some background information on the "sit-in protest movement" and list three points in summary.

Black is Beautiful, and It's So Beautiful To Be Black

This staff newsletter "Black Is Beautiful, and It's So Beautiful," published by the SCLC, explains the upcoming events that the organization has in store. The newsletter communicates as to who acquired new positions within the SCLC and speaks to how the SCLC wishes to continue with projects based in Chicago, Cleveland, and Washington through Operation Breadbasket.

Brief for the Petitioners

This brochure illustrates questions as well as events pertaining to petitioners during the Civil Rights Movement. Important petitioners, such as Dr. King and Ralph David Abernathy, were convicted and charged with Contempt of Court in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

CBS's Face the Nation Interview

This is an official transcript of an interview on CBS's Face the Nation that focused on the Vietnam War. Dr. King explains his vision for the Civil Rights Movement and Antiwar Movements. The Great Society, Dr. King believes, is being shot down over Vietnam, as the funding for the programs are diverted to the war.

Chicago Daily Defender: SCLC Aide Makes Spirited Capital March Call Here

The Chicago Daily Defender published this article about Rev. Ralph Abernathy's visit to Chicago to promote the Poor People's Campaign. According to Abernathy, "Come this summer, thousands of poor Americans are going to take their burdens to the White House and they'll leave them with LBJ."

Civil Rights Movement Suggestions from MLK Supporter

This note to Dr. King outlines six suggestions to address inequality and aid with employment, education and civil rights reform.

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 of Showdown for Nonviolence

This is a draft, with Dr. King's revisions, of the article "Showdown for Nonviolence" for Look Magazine. The article was published posthumously on April 16, 1968.

Ethics

Dr. King quotes Psalms 28:3, which he interprets as showing the importance of one's intentions and mental attitude.

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.

Face the Nation Interview

This is a transcript of an August 1965 interview of Dr. King on the CBS television news program Face the Nation. King is asked to comment on numerous issues facing American society including the conflict in Vietnam, civil rights, housing and birth control.

Injunction Requested by the City of Birmingham against Protests

The City of Birmingham submitted this "bill of injunction" to the Circuit Court of Alabama to try to stop the sit ins, boycott pickets, and marches led by Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, SCLC, and others in April of 1963. After the injunction was granted and served April 10th, they continued their civil disobedience and many more were arrested. From solitary confinement, Dr. King then wrote "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

International Issues: January 26, 1968

This edition of the National Council of Churches "International Issues" features a report on the indictment of Dr. King's close associates and fellow peace activists Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr. and Dr. Benjamin Spock along with three other peace leaders. The indictment accuses the men of "conspiracy to counsel, aid and abet" draft evasion. The accused were charged on January 5, 1968, a few months after signing an open letter entitled "A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority," which was published in several newspapers.

Interview about Refusal to Seat Julian Bond

This is transcript of a question and answer period following a news conference at which Dr. King made a statement regarding the Georgia State Legislature's refusal to seat Julian Bond after Bond announced his support of a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) news release opposing the Vietnam War. King led a protest rally to the state house.

Is It All Right To Break The Law?

Excerpts from Dr. King's 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" are used to establish an affirmative answer to the question, "Is It All Right to Break The Law?"

Lawyer Fined $50 in Inquiry Ouster

New York lawyer, Arthur Kinoy, was carried out of the courtroom by authorities for disorderly conduct. Mr. Kinoy made history as this had never happened before in the legal system.

Letter from Alfred Gunn to MLK

Alfred L. Gunn requests Dr King's support of Gunn's "new Democratic way of Philosophy." Mr. Dunn also encloses three manuscripts pertaining to riots, the American gun and rifle laws, and the occurrence of racial problems in America.

Letter from Alice Brainerd to MLK

Ms. Brainerd criticizes the methods of Dr. King, asserting that "civil disobedience and non-cooperation" are not the best approach to take towards justice.

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