Martin Luther King, Jr.
His life and philosopy

Guiding Question: What was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philosophy of nonviolence and can we follow his example today?

Read the following:

  1. A timeline of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life.
  2. Photos from the Seattle Times
  3.  Speeches and writings
  4. MLK, Jr. online, interactive quiz


  • How does King characterize the choice between violence and nonviolence in the struggle for freedom? What does he predict violence will lead to? What does he promise nonviolence will lead to? Looking back, was he a reliable forecaster?
  • How does nonviolence work? What are the stages of the process, as King describes it? What role does "tension" play in this process? To what extent is violence part of the process? How does public awareness contribute to making nonviolence a success? Would it work in a society without freedom of speech and freedom of the press?
  • What kind of person takes part in nonviolent action, according to Dr. King? To what extent are they fighters? To what extent peacemakers? What part do politics and religion play in their thinking? What part do hatred and love play in their decision to act? Can you see yourself joining in a nonviolent protest?

Mohandas K. Gandhi

  1. Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi
  2. MK Gandhi Institute - About Gandhi

When reading about Gandhi, focus on the two following paragraphs:

In the application of Satyagraha, I discovered, in the earliest stages, that pursuit of Truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one's opponent, but that he must be weaned from error by patience and sympathy. For what appears to be truth to one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of Truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent but one's own self.

Satyagraha and its off-shoots, non-cooperation and civil resistance, are nothing but new names for the law of suffering.
. . .
The movement of nonviolent non-cooperation has nothing in common with the historical struggles for freedom in the West. It is not based on brute force or hatred. It does not aim at destroying the tyrant. It is a movement of self-purification. It therefore seeks to convert the tyrant.... The essence of nonviolent technique is that it seeks to liquidate antagonisms but not the antagonists themselves. In nonviolent fight you have, to a certain measure, to conform to the tradition and conventions of the system you are pitted against. Avoidance of all relationship with the opposing power, therefore, can never be a Satyagrahi's object but transformation or purification of that relationship.


How do Gandhi's ideas compare to Dr. King's? Where does King seem to follow Gandhi's teachings, and where does he differ?

Consider how nonviolence might be relevant to your own lives. To what degree can we practice this philosophy of social change at a personal level?

This lesson based on EdSitement's lesson.