Martin Luther King Jr., And Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience

910 Words 4 Pages
Since Henry David Thoreau coined the phrase “Civil Disobedience” in an essay, the term has been assigned to a number of movements throughout history. The essay’s ideas have inspired several significant figures throughout history, including Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela (Source A). These three men led non-violent struggles in which unjust laws were disobeyed, and they each finally won profound and positive societal changes. But not every act of civil disobedience is successful. There were specific factors that allowed certain movements to triumph and others to be crushed.
When Thoreau used the word “civil,” he meant “of or relating to citizens.” In modern usage, the term “civil disobedience” implies non-violence,
…show more content…
Usually, that means it needs a leader. A single person whose power only exists via the respect of his followers—like Martin Luther King, Jr.—can turn a ragtag group of activists into a precise weapon for change. MLK was the benevolent dictator of countless activists across the nation. He carefully planned protests, sit-ins and boycotts so that they would strike at key times where they would be most effective (Source B). Scattered, disorganized protesters would be impotent. But MLK’s legions of allies—united, synchronized, and carefully groomed in the art of nonviolence—made the civil rights movement powerful and impossible to …show more content…
The ultimate goal is meaningful change, e.g. the repeal of an unjust law, but it’s unheard of for a single instance of civil disobedience to lead to significant change. Therefore, an act of civil disobedience should be considered successful if it is a step in the right direction, even if it is not an outright victory. Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat for a white man did not immediately lead to the repeal of segregation, but it garnered enough positive attention that it helped the cause. If negotiation begins, that’s even better—and whether the negotiation succeeds or fails, it’s a sign that the movement is a force to be reckoned with. Each little win accumulates, and the acquisition of enough social momentum will finally lead to victory. As they say, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single

Related Documents