By examining King's famous essay in defense of nonviolent protest, along with two significant criticisms of his direct action campaign, this lesson will help students assess various alternatives for securing civil rights for black Americans in a self-governing society.
This lesson introduces students to the philosophy of nonviolence and the teachings of Mohandas K. Gandhi that influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s views. After considering the political impact of this philosophy, students explore its relevance to personal life and contemporary society.
Malcolm X argued that America was too racist in its institutions and people to offer hope to blacks. In contrast with Malcolm X's black separatism, Martin Luther King, Jr. offered what he considered "the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest" as a means of building an integrated community of blacks and whites in America. This lesson will contrast the respective aims and means of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. to evaluate the possibilities for black American progress in the 1960s.
By researching these "ordinary" people and the now historic places where they brought about change, students will discover how the simple act of sitting at a lunch counter in North Carolina could be considered revolutionary, and how, combined with countless other acts of nonviolent protest across the nation, it could lead to major legislation in the area of civil rights for African Americans.