One Man’s Peace

Influences on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s non-violent philosophy

Authored by: Kevin E. Grimm

The Routledge History of World Peace Since 1750

Print publication date:  September  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138069138
eBook ISBN: 9781315157344
Adobe ISBN:


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Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the mid-1950s to desegregate city buses, helmed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was present for Ghana’s independence in March 1957, traveled to India in 1959, and was arrested multiple times during sit-ins and marches in the early 1960s. Perhaps most famously, King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech” in 1963, led the marches in Birmingham (1963) and Selma (1965) that drew national attention to the cause of black civil rights, and helped produce the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act before his assassination in April 1968. Yet what compelled King to do these things? Why did he adopt the specific non-violent strategies he advocated? King’s brave and influential actions have received much scholarly attention, so much so that we seldom see him as a deep thinker, one who incorporated numerous philosophies into both his worldview and his actions. The acts he pursued for the sake of equality were non-violent, of course, and King’s non-violence is one of the key reasons most Americans include him in the canon of important historical figures. But why did he choose non-violence? What did King think he was pursuing, ultimately, with his strategies? Which thinkers and ideas most fed into his goals and actions?

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