MLK Jr on Nonviolent Resistance


Picture taken from Wikimedia Commons

In a 1957 article for the Christian Century entitled Nonviolence and Racial Justice, King briefly traces the history of African Americans in this country from their first arrival as slaves in 1619 to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. He further states that the 1896 ruling on Plessy v. Ferguson introduced “separate but equal,” which was a second enslavement for the black race in this country. Oppression had led to a quest for freedom. King says that this quest for freedom would utilize one of two options: violent resistance or nonviolent resistance.

King’s five basic arguments for nonviolent resistance include the following:

  1. Nonviolent resistance “is not a method for cowards; it does resist.” Though physically passive, it is “strongly active spiritually.”
  2. Nonviolent resistance “does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding.” The goal is not humiliation but moral shame, which would ultimately lead to redemption and reconciliation.
  3. Nonviolent resistance “is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who are caught in those forces.” “It is evil we are seeking to defeat, not the persons victimized by evil.” The basic struggle is not between the races but between justice and injustice.
  4. In addition to avoiding external physical violence, nonviolent resistance avoids “internal violence of spirit.” This method springs from a heart of love, not hatred or bitterness.
  5. Nonviolent resisters have the conviction that the “universe is on the side of justice.” God is on the side of truth and justice, and it will ultimately prevail.
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2 Responses to MLK Jr on Nonviolent Resistance

  1. Rob Sparks says:

    I’m really enjoying the historical posts. I’m coming up on a year at a church in South Texas started about a Century ago by Foy Wallace, Sr. The rich history of the church in this area has rekindled my interest in it generally. Thanks!

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