University of Missouri- St. Louis
Professor Clark McMillion
November 10, 2013
Over the course of history, there have been a series of non violent movements. Some were successful, and others were not. The use of non violence to achieve political change or to raise the public’s awareness of an issue can be dated to as far back as 1300 B.C. The non violent movement stemmed from individuals who felt that human life was precious and that in order to retain that moral standard; they chose to participate in civil disobedient, non violent acts to attain their goals. The names of some of the individuals that led many successful non violent movements are still remembered to this day. In this essay I will discuss some of the most prominent and successful non violent movements and their leaders, as well as to why those movements were so successful.
I “I Have Dream” is one of the most well known speeches given to the public in the history of mankind. It contained what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed was just and fair for the African American people. The non violent movement of African American civil rights is one of the most well known and discussed movements of all time. So how did it begin? It began just as all social movements do, in the state of genesis. Stewart, Smith, and Denton refer to genesis as, “a relatively quiet time with respect to the issue that protesters are addressing (Stewart, Smith & Denton, 2012. p.90). In other words, almost all social movements begin at a stage where the people belonging to the group who want something to change are voicing their opinions, but not at a level of which the end of a non violent movement has. Dr. King became a civil rights activist early on in his career.
Dr. King took a trip to India that was inspired by Ghandi and came back with a voice that would carry millions of African Americans out of oppression. The African American civil rights movement was known by many after the Montgomery bus boycott that took place in 1955. At this point the movement had reached social unrest and left the stage of genesis. The social unrest stage can be classified as the stage in which, “an increasing number of people rise up and express their concerns, and frustration over issues”( Stewart, Smith & Denton, 2012. p.93). This stage also includes the first time the movement is publicized in the media. The social unrest stage also includes the prophets and intellectuals that “stir things up” to organize elements and take them beyond living rooms, blogs, local groups and demonstrations (Stewart, Smith & Denton, 2012. p.93). The Montgomery bus boycott did all of those things. The movement was plastered all over newspapers, broadcasted over the nation’s radios, and televised on every news channel in America.
The third stage of a social movement is the enthusiastic mobilization stage. In this stage, those involved in the movement begin to see “institutions as the problems or as active conspiracies to sustain power and stifle all reasonable efforts to bring about urgently needed action (Stewart, Smith & Denton, 2012. P. 95). The African American civil rights movement reached this stage when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was founded. The conference stood for moral equality across all races and creeds, and pushed black churches across America to hold non violent protests in the service of civil rights Dr. King was elected the first president in the organization’s history. The conference was created because those involved in the movement realized that it wasn’t people that were at the roots of the problem; it was the institution; the government that had laid sets of rules down that purposely oppressed the African American race. As social movements evolve and face opposition, activists abandon judicial hearings and instead, “take to the streets, open market places, forests vineyards, college campuses and the