Comparison of Influence: A Case Study Based upon Martin Luther Kings Letter from a Birmingham Jail and Waldens Civil Disobedience - Essay Example

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Whereas many individuals borrow liberally from others ideas in order to create their own, Martin Luther King was very open regarding the inspiration for his within his essay, “Letters from a Birmingham Jail”. Ultimately, the purpose my essay will be to trace the influence that Martin Luther King gained from Henry David Thoreau’s work “Civil Disobedience”. …
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Comparison of Influence: A Case Study Based upon Martin Luther Kings Letter from a Birmingham Jail and Waldens Civil Disobedience
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"Comparison of Influence: A Case Study Based upon Martin Luther Kings Letter from a Birmingham Jail and Waldens Civil Disobedience"

Download file to see previous pages Comparison of Influence: A Case Study Based upon Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and Walden’s “Civil Disobedience”

On the most basic level, the reader can understand the ideas put forward by Thoreau in “Civil Disobedience” to be based upon nonviolent resistance. Within Thoreau’s times, this was, of course, something of a new idea. Rather than seeking to effect change by violence and/or the spilling of blood in the form of a revolution, Thoreau understood that civil disobedience in the form of nonviolence could affect same goals at a faster rate than could be realized by violence. Although this was not specifically stated, the reader can infer this from a full analysis of the piece due to the fact that King’s other writings and speeches continued to emphasize the importance of nonviolent means as a vehicle for achieving the ultimate goals of the civil rights movement. This was not only due to his belief that violence was ultimately evil, it was also due to the fact that Thoreau understood the fact that within any conflict there exist several parties.

Martin Luther King himself identified with and appreciated the concepts put forth by Thoreau as well as by Gandhi, who also drew upon Thoreau’s inspiration in order to affect the Indian freedom movement, as a means of presenting the importance of the civil rights movement within the United States. Martin Luther King said, “I am not afraid of the word tension. ...
Although it could be argued that the letter was not specifically directed towards his supporters only, the fact of the matter is that King’s letter served help his supporters to understand and promote his message among those “fence riders” that had yet to take a side in the brewing conflict. Moreover, the reader can understand that within the Civil Rights movement, there was a fundamental break with regards to what policy was the best to pursue. Some individuals within the struggle for civil rights were of the belief that violent resistance was the only means by which lasting change could be affected. Said King, “We must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise” (King 266). As such, King asserted that the most profitable approach was the responsibility that civil rights campaigners had. King explained in the following way: "one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” (King 265). In such a way, the focus was taken away from seeking to engage violence with violence; rather, King sought to willfully resist as a means of providing a societal recognition of the greater good which he was seeking to demonstrate. This was, of course, due to the fact that violence had already been used by those opposed to the civil rights movement and the individuals towards whom it was directed had no effective means of protecting themselves (Helicher 91). At this point, people had not fully understood the idea of King’s message nor realized that the brutal repressive tactics that were being used against him were uncalled for and effectively in violation of human rights. Although neither Thoreau nor Gandhi advocated nonviolence based upon Christian virtue, King utilized their theories and changed them ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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