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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

Telegram from Wyatt Tee Walker

Walker sends out this telegram to inform its recipients that Dr. King and Rev. Abernathy have been unjustly arrested in Albany, Georgia.

The Law and Civil Disobedience

Harris Wofford, a law professor and member of Senator John F. Kennedy's staff, discusses civil disobedience and its relationship to the law at the student association of Notre Dame Law School. He advocates in favor of civil disobedience using the theories of Thoreau, Socrates, Gandhi and others to support the need to break unjust laws. Dr. King pens handwritten questions on the top of this document pertaining to the changing of unjust laws in the courts.

The Massachusetts Review: A Legacy of Creative Protest

Dr. King writes of the influence of Henry David Thoreau's essay on the duty of civil disobedience in forming his belief that non-cooperation with evil is a moral obligation. He cites lunch-counter sit-ins, freedom rides, and the bus boycott as evidence that Thoreau’s thinking is still alive. This article appeared in a special 1962 issue of The Massachusetts Review commemorating the centennial of Thoreau’s death.

The Modern Negro Activist

Dr. King profiles the emergent young Negro civil rights activist who is college-educated, creative, brave and committed to the discipline of non-violence. He attributes the activist's diligence to a keen awareness that they inhabit a world on the cusp of positive social change and that they will have the privilege to direct that change. They are no longer to be an imitator of his white counterpart, but rather an initiator and leader in this new age.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story

This dramatic story gives a riveting account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott movement and its aim to end segregation of the public transit in Montgomery, Alabama after the arrest of Rosa Parks. E.D. Nixon and other ministers illustrate the philosophy of nonviolent tactics employed by the Montgomery Improvement Association and their struggle for "cosmic companionship."

The Social Organization of Nonviolence

Dr. King breaks down the structure of a nonviolent movement. He describes at length the difference between "token" integration and true integration. He describes three types of violence that could be used to achieve integration to which he prefers the "wholesome," nonviolent choice. Lastly, Dr. King gives his opinion on the "evils" of war.

The Story of Snick

"From Freedom High to Black Power," by Gene Roberts, describes the opposing views voiced by SNCC and Dr. King regarding the civil rights movement. SNCC asserts a message of violence and black power, while Dr. King promotes a philosophy of love and nonviolence.

This is SCLC

This is a brochure describing the functions of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Subjects discussed in this brochure include the source of SCLC'S funds, community efforts, civil rights demonstrations, and information on its leadership training and citizenship schools.

U.S. News & World Report: New Negro Threat

U.S. News & World Report reports that Dr. King plans on using "civil disobedience on a massive scale," including marches, sit-ins and boycotts in "riot-torn" Northern cities.

Unitarian Universalist Statement of Consensus on Racial Injustice

The Fifth General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association listed several laws adopted by the association. Some of the laws incorporate civil rights, demonstrations, voting rights, equality, civil disobedience, and discrimination in employment and housing.

Walter Winchell: American Talking Back

In this article, Walter Winchell provides excerpts of news articles and adds his own commentary to each. Following an excerpt about Dr. King's having a conference to coordinate civil disobedience activities, Winchell urges his leaders to write to Dr. King and "tell him to stop posing as a Man of Peace and 'fess up that his big "act" is causing more trouble than Ho Chi Mihn." Other recipients of Winchell's attention in this column include President Lyndon B. Johnson.

We Return to Birmingham Jail to Bear Witness

On his way to turn themselves in to Birmingham jail again in 1967, Dr. King writes this article in longhand, asserting the purposes of the civil rights activists' civil disobedience. Their unjust incarceration, he states, will allow them to bear witness to an unjust justice system, from Bull Connor's dogs to the US Supreme Court. The Court had just issued a decision supporting Connor's injunction forbidding the protests of the Birmingham campaign, which had led to his first incarceration there in 1963.

Welcome to Kennett Square, Dr. King

The highlighted article of this newspaper clipping reports on Dr. King's upcoming visit to Kennett High School in Chester County, Pennsylvania at the invitation of the Hadley Memorial Fund program committee. The editorial addresses dissenters who object to Dr. King's visit to Kennett Square for various reasons, including perceived threats of civil disobedience and because Dr. King "fails to measure up as cultural material." However, the author insists that Dr.

You and the Poor People's Campaign

This document contains detailed information regarding the Poor People's Campaign. This document also discusses the Satyagraha movement, a nonviolent movement that means "truth force."

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