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Why was the use of Non-Violence Protest effective during King Jr.’s Campaign for improved Civil Rights?

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Introduction

Why was the use of Non-Violence Protest effective during King Jr.'s Campaign for improved Civil Rights? The use of non violence by black protestors was a trademark which was used repeatedly over a large proportion of the civil rights movement, right from the early days in Montgomery through to the mid sixties and the Selma campaign. Martin Luther King Jr. had taken inspiration from Ghandi and his fight for independence in India. In this fight for civil rights it would test King's leadership skills to the limit, in trying to refrain thousands of angry and frustrated protestors from the violence which was so easily used against them. The technique, though, proved to be wholly successful and a vital part of the civil rights movement. The thing that made non violent protest effective was that it gave black protestors the moral high ground. They already had this in most cases, as the battle they were fighting was a just one. Martin Luther King urged protestors to maintain the tactic: "Advocate non-violence and passive resistance. [We are] armed with the weapon of non-violence and love" They marched peacefully through racist towns in the south, such as Montgomery, Birmingham and Albany. They didn't respond to any violence against them, except with a well thought out comment to the press or authorities. ...read more.

Middle

The black protestors had resisted temptation and chose the non-violent protest and they became all the more strong for that. Other Americans may have realised this also and support for the movement rose, as demonstrated by the huge numbers of marchers. This all help to prove the effectiveness of non violence. Martin Luther King's leadership and ideals of non violence were vital to the movement. His speeches were of great inspiration and many religious references were used, as Jesus himself preached non violence. "Was not Jesus an extremist for love - 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.'" The ideas in the famed Letter from Birmingham Jail preached non-violence using the Bible. White Americans reading this would have realised that their racist views were in fact against the Bible. The letter was written in defence of criticisms from white clergy in Birmingham who thought he should never have come to the town. I think that the letter was an effective argument against these attacks, and another vitally inspirational speech from Dr. King. It was from Birmingham jail in 1963 that King planned the next phase of non violent protest. He wanted to get black school children to march. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the summer of 1966, the officials turned off the water hydrants, despite the hot weather, and at this point, non violence snapped and riots began. In four days 2 people were dead. Martin Luther King pleaded protestors to keep peaceful: "Those who make a peaceful revolution impossible will make a violent revolution inevitable." Violence stopped, and peaceful (although angry) marches continued, but damage had already been done. President Johnson secretly compared the rioters to the Ku Klux Klan and was amazed about how unappreciative the rioters were of all his work (Johnson had done more than any other president for civil rights). The SCLC left Chicago with increased funds for housing but little more. Importantly, non-violence had collapsed despite all of King's efforts. It is unquestionable the huge effectiveness of non-violent protest. It secured rights in Montgomery in 1956, Birmingham in '63 and Selma in '65, not to mention the education battles of the late fifties. The protests turned public opinion against the brutality of the whites and towards the dignity and patience of the blacks. Non-violence was King's best tactic and his true leadership was revealed in his attempts to maintain peace and dignity. In later years increased frustration and militant blacks led to a breakdown in peaceful protest, but the patience, dignity and intelligence of King, all the other black protestors and the effectiveness in securing civil rights will not be forgotten. ...read more.

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