NONVIOLENCE The guiding principle of the Civil Rights Revolution during the late 1950's and early 1960's was that of nonviolent civil disobedience and passive resistance. The tactics of nonviolence included protest marches and demonstrations, prayer pilgrimages, sit-ins, stand-ins and freedom rides. Based in part on the philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi, who once said that "soul force" was sufficiently powerful to ultimately create "an exploitation-free society in which the ordinary individual can claim and defend his rights," nonviolent civil disobedience in mid-twentieth century America found its champion in Martin Luther King.
Although the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) had adopted a program of nonviolent civil disobedience as early as 1942, it was King more than anyone who gave meaning to the principle. "We will match your capacity to inflict suffering," Dr. King wrote, "with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. We will not hate you, but we cannot... obey your unjust laws. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. But we will soon wear you down by our capacity to suffer." Although the nonviolent segment of the Civil Rights Revolution had begun to wane somewhat prior to his death, King's brutal and senseless assassination in 1968 dealt a serious if not mortal blow to the cause he lived for. CORE leader Floyd McKissick, for example, immediately proclaimed that "nonviolence is a dead philosophy," while black militant Stokely Carmichael declared that "When white America killed Dr. King last night she declared war on us. He was the one man in our race who was trying to teach our people to have love, compassion and mercy for white people." See also: MARTIN LUTHER KING.