Civil Disobedience


Explain what civil disobedience is and how it is illustrated in Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham Jail.


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”


“Any law the degrades a person in order to inflate another person to some perceived superiority”


“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntary given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”


These just three of the many notable lines Mr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his well-known and recognized “Letter from the Birmingham jail”. The letter written in response to the fellow clergymen after they stated that his parading was untimely and unwise. They went on to call him and instigator.


Mr. King was a leader in the African American movement to change the segregated south. Invoking a tactic know as Civil Disobedience, Civil disobedience originated as a Concord Lyceum lecture delivered by Henry David Thoreau on January 26, 1848.This disobedience is form of protest where people violate a laws they consider unjust. The civil part of the tactic is just that, civil, not violet. Mohandas K Gandhi used the same set of tactic to gain independence of India from the British.


Mr. King called the laws of the segregated south unjust because he felt that they did not square themselves with the moral code of the time. He went on in his letter to further break down the steps need to carryout a non-violent campaign. First, there would be a collection of the facts to determine whether injustices were alive. Two, there would be negotiation, to try and squeal the matter peacefully. Three, there would be self-purification, holding workshops on non-violence, and for four direct action.


The direct non-violent action came in the form of boycotts, marches, and refusal of services. The Montgomery bus boycott changed the law allowing blacks to sit were they pleased on buses, not having to give up their seats to whites and allowing them to sit in the front of the bus. Marches were lead on major cities, Montgomery, Birmingham, Washington D.C.. Sit-ins were done at lunch counters that refused to serve blacks, making them pick up their food at the back of the restaurant, mush like you would feed a dog.


The last quote at the top of the page leads me to the group conclusion, Mr. King and his supporters started, maintained, and finished in a non-violent method. The white oppressors used water canons, dogs and various gases to try and end the demonstrations. Although they endured get hardship and pain they in the end changed and help build what we in America, will always fight for “Freedom”