Many civil rights leaders and activists have cited Henry David Thoreau and his essay “Civil Disobedience” as a key influence.   Mahatma Ghandi spoke praise of Thoreau, saying: “Thoreau was a great writer, philosopher, poet, and withal a most practical man, that is, he taught nothing he was not prepared to practise (sic) in himself. ... He went to gaol [jail] for the sake of his principles and suffering humanity. His essay has, therefore, been sanctified by suffering. Moreover, it is written for all time. Its incisive logic is unanswerable.”  Dr. King also cited Thoreau’s influence in his Autobiography“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest.”

Civil rights leaders in the south would use a number of tools besides civil disobedience.  One tool that they occasionally used was the boycott, in which they leveraged the buying power of thousands of black citizens who would simply stop spending their money on targeted businesses or services.  This was the tactic that they tried first in the Birmingham Campaign.  Birmingham had become notorious for its racially unjust policies, services, businesses, etc.  It was for this reason that civil rights leaders targeted Birmingham, thinking that if they could make this bastion of racism fall, then other southern communities that were not as committed to racial policy would accede as well.  Although their first tactic in the Birmingham Campaign, the boycott, was ineffective, they would succeed with other tactics such as “sit-ins,” a form of civil disobedience in which they would shut down a business or service that would not serve blacks by simply coming in mass numbers, sitting down, and refusing to budge until served or until forcefully removed by police.  It was this tactic along with the marches and mass arrests that broke the political will of racist politicians, officials, and businessmen in the city.

From Wikipedia:  “The Birmingham campaign was a model of direct action protest, as it effectively shut down the city and, through the media, drew the world's attention to racial segregation in the South. It burnished King's reputation, ousted Connor [the Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety who directed the brutal police tactics against marchers and protesters] from his job, forced desegregation in Birmingham, and paved the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in hiring practices and public services in the United States.”

To be fair, not all white southerners were racist, and there were some that stood for right and good during this time.  For instance, you might have read about the horrific Rosewood Massacre in Florida in 1923, perhaps the largest single incident of senseless, evil racist violence against blacks.  Or you might have seen the movie about the incident, Rosewood, which diverges a little bit from the historical account but is otherwise fairly accurate.  Even in that horrific incident, there were white southerners that stood up against the violence, injustice, and hatred.  Undoubtedly, however, there were not enough white southerners of good conscience during the Jim Crow era that stood up against these unjust systems, laws, and businesses.  Dr. King wrote in his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail," "
If [we] fail to act . . . history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only for the acts and words of the children of darkness but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light."

There will always be evil men and women who are too willing to do the bidding of the enemy and willing to give in to racism, prejudice, stereotypes, or injustice.  And there will always be people who have little moral fortitude and will not display courage in the face of wrong or injustice.  That is why it is so important for the children of God, the "children of light," those saved by Jesus and living by God's Law of Love, to be willing to “stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30), to stand for right and good, to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, regardless of whether people stand with us or whether we stand alone.  Even if we stand alone, we will never be completely alone.  God promises to stand with us: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

I pray that you will be filled with His Courage and the
Power of His Spirit to stand for right and good wherever God places you in life.

 


Comments

07/29/2016 4:17pm

People feel comfort on loneliness way. The civil disobedience is through the movement. The poet makes some influence and aware people for their rights. This leads for the movement and ultimately a right gain through such movement. People make awareness in such ways.

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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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