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Civil Disobedience

Steele, Charles Kenzie

The first vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Reverend C. K. Steele shared Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, vision of social equality through nonviolent means. As president of the Inter-Civic Council, Steele led a successful bus boycott in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1956, based on the example set by the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). Although not widely noted, the efforts of the Inter-Civic Council offered hope to those engaged in what Steele described as “the pain and the promise” of the civil rights movement (Steele, 27 September 1978). He later stated: “Where there is any power … as strong [and] as eternal as love using nonviolence, the promise will be fulfilled” (Steele, 27 September 1978).

St. Augustine, Florida

In the spring of 1964, as St. Augustine, Florida, prepared to celebrate its 400th anniversary, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) launched a massive campaign supporting the small local movement to end racial discrimination in the nation’s oldest city. King hoped that demonstrations there would lead to local desegregation and that media attention would garner national support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was then stalled in a congressional filibuster.

Smith, Kelly Miller

As a social gospel minister, Kelly Miller Smith believed in using his pastorate to promote activism. Smith participated in the founding meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, and co-founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Council (NCLC) a year later. In a 1961 telegram Smith described Martin Luther King as the “embodiment of the message you bear” (Smith, 19 December 1961).

Vivian, Cordy Tindell

As a minister, educator, and community organizer, C. T. Vivian has been a tenacious advocate for civil rights since the 1940s. After joining the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the early 1960s, he became the Director of Affiliates and participated in numerous protests. Known for his sharp tongue and unflinching courage, Vivian recalled what movement veterans felt after serving time in jail: “They had triumphed, that they had achieved, that they were now ready, they could go back home, they could be a witness to a new understanding. Nonviolence was proven in that respect” (Hampton and Fayer, 96).

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