Civil Rights and Protests

Race Riots

What was the nonviolence movement?

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) was committed to bringing about change by staging peaceful protests; he led a campaign of nonviolence as part of the modern Civil Rights Movement. King rose to prominence as a leader during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, when he delivered a speech that embodied his Christian beliefs and set the tone for the nonviolence movement, saying, “We are not here advocating violence…. The only weapon we have … is the weapon of protest.” Throughout his life, King staunchly adhered to these beliefs—even after terrorists bombed his family’s home. King’s democratic “protest arsenal” included boycotts, marches, the words of his stirring speeches (comprising an impressive body of oratory), and sit-ins. With other African-American ministers, King established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1957), which assumed a leadership role during the Civil Rights Movement. The nonviolent protest of black Americans proved a powerful weapon against segregation and discrimination and motivated lawmakers in Washington to pass civil rights legislation for equality and justice for African Americans.



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