King found that Gandhi’s teachings collaborated with his own Christian beliefs (specifically the biblical philosophy to “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies”), as well as his intolerance for racial injustice. He melded these ideas with the concept of nonviolent resistance, which he encountered during his first year at Morehouse while reading Henry David Thoreau’s Essay on Civil Disobedience. King became convinced that a philosophy based on love could succeed as a “powerful and effective social force on a large scale” and adopted the philosophy of nonviolent direct action.
Even when confronted with violence, practitioners figuratively and sometimes literally turn the other cheek and love, instead of hate, those who wrong them. The Montgomery Bus Boycott became King’s first opportunity to use nonviolent direct action.
As the civil rights movement progressed, King’s ideology matured. Although Gandhi’s principles provided the foundation for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), an active civil rights organization founded in 1942, Martin Luther King Jr., developed the link between Gandhi and the civil rights movement further.
In subsequent writings and speeches, King not only defined the relationship between Gandhi and nonviolent direct action, but he also explained why Christian leaders and all members of society had a moral obligation to rise above the limitations of man-made laws steeped in hatred.
Martin Luther King Jr. infused the civil rights movement with a greater moral and philosophical purpose. King insisted that God’s law and love truly did conquer all. Through his advocacy of nonviolent direct action, the process of challenging societal wrongs via protest marches, boycotts, and sit-ins, among other strategies, without the use of violence, King was able to bring an initially reluctant America closer to the dream of true equality for all races.
Dr. King’s Beloved Community was not devoid