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violent and non-violent actions in civil rights
Tue Nov 29, 2011 15:40

Civil rights are garneted to every citizen in the United States of America. Although this is true prior to the 1960s civil rights were not protected, nor fought for on a national scale. The struggle for African Americans to achieve equal rights during this period changed history. This struggle is characterized by violent and non-violent actions. While some thought violence was the quick and easy solution, most understood that any permanent results to be made would be through non-violent methods. A person that practiced non-violent methods during this time was Doctor King. Without people like Martin Luther King, these struggles might have never ended. It was not what he did but what he did not do. His use of nonviolence was what earned all African American rights. If violence was used it would have only been returned with more violence. This would have been extremely detrimental to this process and would have prolonged the rights of these individuals. The opposite end of the spectrum was led by Malcolm X. He believed change was not happing fast enough and that the oppressed should rise up, violently if necessary, and take rights that were theirs.
Martin Luther King believed that the only way to gain equal rights was through peaceful protest. King grew up in Atlanta, Georgia where he grew up and learned about the church and how everyone is equal. King was especially smart skipping the ninth and twelfth grade. At fifteen King went to college achieving a degree in sociology. He would then join the clergy. King settled in Alabama as a preacher. (Hodgson 52) Kings biggest influence was Mahatma Gandhi. King took Gandhi’s lessons to heart and believed in them. He, like Gandhi, knew the only way to win the struggle of equal rights was to peacefully protest. He believed that it was impossible for the government to “deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest” (Letter220). King would be correct but the change he was looking for would happen slowly. Without Martin Luther King’s strong influence and recognition by the people, the civil rights movement might have become the civil rights war. Movements in America are often characterized by their violence. Kings movement shows how affective nonviolent protest can be. He accomplished his goal and did many things people thought to be impossible. He showed that an “existing respect for the law” (Letter220) is only true when the law is “legal and morally correct” (Letter218). Marching on Washington D.C, peacefully going to jail and delivering famous speeches without a single outbreak of violence King acomblished his goals. Although this was successful, some people believe that success did not come fast enough.
Like any other problem you see in this world many methods of solving it can be presented. Malcolm X had an extremely different method then and believed it to be the only way to gain equal rights. Malcolm X believed that "Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action."(BIOGRAPHY). This powerful statement shows exactly how he feels the problem of equal rights should be solved. He knew that in the current situation power was the key. The only way to stop someone from having power over you is to overpower that person or entity. Exerting power means using violence to make a change. Malcolm X was an extremist though and not only sought out this change in America but desired a new world order (James 330). If the method of power desired by Malcolm X is successful then change will come quick but if it fails in the slightest bit, or is meet with more violence, which it almost always is, it can be detrimental to his cause. In the case of civil rights in America, this happened to be true, proving the value of non-violent techniques over violent ones.
Protests in America have always been characterized by the amount of violence they cause. The more damage or death there is the more the event is send around the nation. Many people believe in violence as a way of changing the world. When you look at it really is easy to think that way. Forcing your will on others is much easier then taking the time and energy to convince them of their ways. Although it might seem easier, it is not as effective. To change people it takes time. Doing things over time make people more acceptable of the change. Violence does not allow time and makes people not want to give the cause time. Non-violence is the only way to demand and achieve a change in society. Nonviolent acts of protest and sorts are symbolic actions performed by a group of people to show their support or disapproval of something. The goal of this kind of action is to bring public awareness to an issue, persuade or influence a particular group of people. The message can be directed toward the public, opponents, or people affected by the issue. Methods of protest and persuasion include speeches, public communications, petitions, symbolic acts, art, processions, and other public assemblies. Noncooperation involves the purposeful withholding of cooperation or the unwillingness to initiate in cooperation with an opponent. The goal of noncooperation is to make it hard for an industry, political system, or economic process. A specific example being the Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Doctor King. Compared with protest and noncooperation, nonviolent intervention is a more direct method of nonviolent action.
Because of its success, nonviolent protesting has become a philosophy. Love of the enemy, or the realization of the humanity of all people, is a fundamental concept of philosophical nonviolence. King took this philosophy to heart and applied it to his cause. The goal of this type of nonviolence is not to defeat the enemy, but to win them over and create love and understanding between all. The opposite method often causes more problems and causes the group looking for change to lose credibility. Malcolm X used this method and all though he gained many supporters he receives much less credit for the change in civil rights then Dr. King. For many, practicing nonviolence goes deeper than withholding from violent behavior or words. It means caring in one's heart for everyone, even those with whom one strongly disagrees.

Works Cited
Austin, Curtis J. "On Violence and Nonviolence: The Civil Rights Movement In Mississippi." Mississippi History Now. 2000. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://mshistory.k12.ms.us/articles/62/the-civil-rights-movement-in-mississippi-on-violence-and-nonviolence>.

Hodgson, Godfrey. Martin Luther King. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2010. Print.
James A. Tyner. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers , New Series, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Sep., 2004), pp. 330-343

Martin Luther King. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” World of Ideas. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 8th ed. Boston. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 211-231.

"BIOGRAPHY." MalcolmX.com. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://malcolmx.com/about/bio3.html>.

Violence vs. Non-Violence: An Annotated Bibliography
Austin, Curtis J. "On Violence and Nonviolence: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi."Mississippi History Now. 2000. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.
This article on, Mississippi History Now’s website illustrates the how local African Americans in Mississippi used the method of non-violence, practiced by Martin Luther King, but were still meat by violence and at times had to resort to violence themselves. The article makes clear that those seeking civil rights did not use violence. These people understood that violence would only bring more violence and that their lives would be threatened. Although this theory proved to be often true there were cases of non-violent methods of seeking civil rights were meet with violence. Especially in past slave holding states such as Mississippi, anyone publicly seeking or promoting civil rights put their life on the line. In these extreme situations some people would fallow King’s non-violent ways to their graves while others would fight back in order to protect their live and property. In the event that an African American did fight back, the setbacks were obvious. Non-supporters of civil rights would take the opportunity to make the African American look undeserving of the right they were seeking.
Hodgson, Godfrey. Martin Luther King. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2010. Print.
In Godfrey Hodgson’s book Martin Luther King, he depicts the life and develop of personality of Martin Luther King. The book brings the reader through the life of King. Starting from his childhood in Atlanta, Georgia to his assassination in Memphis, Texas the book touches all the major event in King’s life that made him how he was and do all he did. The book strongly concentrates on Kings development in personality and growth as a leader. King was raised in a very religious and moral based home. This latter supported his interest in philosophy and human rights. King became especially fond of Mohandas Gandhi and his teachings. Gandhi had developed a method of protest that yielded slow results but had a much more lasting impact and positive response. King took this philosophy to heart and applied it to all of his efforts towards civil rights. Like predicted this method took time. During this long time the book described King as often frustrated. Many would agree that towards the end of King’s life and after King would have lost reason for frustration because of all the progress.
James A. Tyner. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers , New Series, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Sep., 2004), pp. 330-343
From this website I have gathered my counter argument and developed on how violence was used as a method to gain civil rights. Not everyone was fond of the idea of just peacefully protesting and waiting for results. Some were or eager and demanded their right immediately, even if this meant violently taking them. A leader in this method was Malcolm Little or better known as Malcolm X. Malcolm believed that all those being denied civil rights deserved them and was angry about the current situation. Malcolm X wanted to rise up and have all of these individual take their rights anyway they could. He’s methods were militant and involved powerful speeches that inspired people to take their rights by force if necessary. He was extreme to the point where he was not only ready to change civil rights in America but bring his movement world wide and form a new world full of liberation and justice. Malcolm X and Dr. King had very different ideas on how to achieve civil rights.
Martin Luther King. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” World of Ideas. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 8th ed. Boston. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 211-231.
World of Ideas by Lee Jacobus contains many short articles that make the reader think about moral concepts and worldly ideas. On such article in this book is “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King. This letter was written by King while in jail after being arrested for participating in a sit-in. The letter elaborates on the many injustices African Americans and other minorities suffer in America. His made the need to change society so that no man was oppressed by another. King made clear in his letter his desire for equal rights even using a quote from the Constitution of the United States itself to support his argument. All of this would be achieved over time through the use of non-violent methods, just like the sit-in he had just attendant.
"BIOGRAPHY." MalcolmX.com. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://malcolmx.com/about/bio3.html>.
This online article about Malcolm X further supports his radical ideas and use of violence and aggression as a tool for equality. Desiring a pure and equal world so much, he was willing to destroy anything in the way. This article also brings up Malcolm’s ability and desire to voice these ideas and recruit followers.

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