Non-Violence as the Bigger Statement
In the documentary _Eyes on the Prize_, John Lewis- an attendee of the 1960 Nashville Lunch Counter Sit-In, regales the use of nonviolence in their fight for racial equality, saying "We took our seats in a very orderly, peaceful fashion…We just sit there, and we continue to sit all day long... But for me, I'll tell you; it was like being involved in a holy crusade. It became a badge of honor" (PBS). The Civil Rights Movement, which began in 1954, was so deeply impactful largely in part to the unusual nature of its participant's actions against their opposition. Scarce physical tactics or retaliation was threatened against the white opposition on the black insurgent's behalf in order to achieve what they sought. Instead, the African Americans took a stance of nonviolence as their weapon of choice, hoping to reach a middle ground of peace between all of the nation's races. Some of the historical and structural causes at the core of this stance were the guidance of Martin Luther King Jr., the organized fight to dismantle long-standing norms of racial segregation within the white communities, and the effort to raise awareness to a blind political system.
In introducing the concept of social insurgency, Doug McAdam says, "At the close of 1876-1930 period, the southern black population was only just beginning to develop the institutional strength so vital to the generation of social insurgency" (McAdam 94). Historically, black Southern Americans had experienced little to no sense of togetherness as a community; it would take someone or something with enough passion and commitment to bring them together. Obtaining a leader to push such idealistic views for the African American race is practically a requirement to incite immense social change. An organizer is the heart of the movement, because they diffuse centralized direction and coordination (McAdam 47). Having Martin Luther King Jr. as a guiding force behind the Civil Rights Movement was, arguably, the biggest motivation for non-violence as a directive in community institutions during this period. In his _Letter from Birmingham Jail_, often called the Call for Unity, Dr. King says, "In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action" (Letter 2). Martin, born and raised in the church, came from humble beginnings; his father, a pastor, sermonized many ideals of a future of peace and the effectiveness of words over physicality. Dr. King went on to preach the ideals of a future based on equality, regardless of skin color or nationality, to his followers. His goals primarily focused on the rise of the nation as a whole- as one- rather than just the rise of the African American race. In his _Chicago Freedom Movement Rally Speech_, he stated, "The Negro needs the white man to free him from his fears. The white man needs the negro to free him from his guilt" (King). Dr. King was aware that for there to be peace and success for our country, we would have to learn to coexist as one community, instead of having one dominant race in any aspect. In another excerpt from the Chicago rally, he summarizes his intent with nonviolence, saying, "Nonviolence does not mean doing nothing. It does not mean passively accepting evil. It means standing up so strongly with your body and soul that you cannot stoop to the low places of violence and hatred. I am still convinced that nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, it cuts without wounding" (King). In result, his practices flourished, inspiring others to come together and follow in his footsteps. Historically, it also aided that typically only violence had been used to fight battles and/or change things in the past, which had only gotten them to the point they found themselves at then.
The typical day-to-day life of White Southerners consisted of structural norms within the economy,...
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King, Martin Luther, Jr. "Chicago Freedom Movement Rally Speech." Courtesy
of the King Center. Atlanta, Georgia. African-American History Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp. September 24, 2014.
King, Martin Luther. _Letter from Birmingham Jail_. Stamford, CT: Overbrook, 1968.
Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
McAdam, Doug. Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930-1970.
Chicago: U of Chicago, 1982. Print.
PBS, prod. "Ain 't Scared of Your Jails." _Eyes on the Prize_. PBS. N.d. _PBS_. Web.
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