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For hundreds of years, a regrettably large number of people have struggled to gain rights for oppressed minorities. Every so often, someone succeeds. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi were two of these successful individuals. Specifically, “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” by Dr. King and Bhikhu Parekh’s “Gandhi: A Very Short Introduction” concisely illustrate the philosophies of these prominent civil rights leaders. Many of their principles also draw parallels to Henry David Thoreau’s “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi’s philosophies shared many similar ideas, and they were each influenced by the ideas of Henry David Thoreau as well, though to varying degrees. However, because they developed and applied these ideas in different countries in order to achieve different outcomes, their methods have certain nuances that make them unique, while fighting for the same basic principle: rights for the oppressed.
Since Dr. Martin Luther King was heavily influenced by Gandhi’s philosophies, many similarities exist between their theories concerning nonviolence. Gandhi claimed that violence rarely achieved lasting results and that, if used, people would become convinced this was the only way to solve their issues 1. King agreed in his own context, saying that if African Americans used violent means as a way of bringing forth social change, they would eventually be misled to believe that there was no alternative to violence 2. Instead, both Gandhi and Dr. King passionately advocated for nonviolence in their respective countries. In his “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” King stated that “nonviolence seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” 3 He echoed the attitude of Gandhi by rhetorically asking, “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating? Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?” 4.

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