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Nonviolence

Nonviolence

As a theologian, Martin Luther King reflected often on his understanding of nonviolence. He described his own “pilgrimage to nonviolence” in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, and in subsequent books and articles. “True pacifism,” or “nonviolent resistance,” King wrote, is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love” (King, Stride, 80). Both “morally and practically” committed to nonviolence, King believed that “the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom” (King, Stride, 79; Papers 5:422).

Nobel Peace Prize

On the morning of 14 October 1964, Martin Luther King, sleeping in an Atlanta hospital room after checking in for a rest, was awakened by a phone call from his wife, Coretta Scott King, telling him that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Although many in the United States and abroad praised the selection, segregationist Eugene “Bull” Connor called it “scraping the bottom of the barrel” (“Cheers and Scorn”). Presenting the award to King in Oslo, Norway, that December, the chairman of the Nobel Committee praised him for being “the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence. He is the first to make the message of brotherly love a reality in the course of his struggle, and he has brought this message to all men, to all nations and races” (Jahn, “Presentation,” 332).

Trumpet of Conscience, The

The Trumpet of Conscience features five lectures that Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered in November and December 1967 for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Massey Lectures. Founded in 1961 to honor Vincent Massey, former Governor General of Canada, the annual Massey Lectures served as a venue for earlier speakers such as John Kenneth Galbraith and Paul Goodman. The event, sponsored by the University of Toronto’s Massey College, is broadcast each year on the CBC Radio One show “Ideas.” Prior to King’s assassination, the book was released under the title Conscience for Change, through the CBC. After King’s death in 1968, the book was republished as The Trumpet of Conscience, and included a foreword written by Coretta Scott King. The book reveals some of King’s most introspective reflections and his last impressions of the movement.

King leads MIA mass meeting at Hutchinson Street Baptist Church; FOR premieres "Walk to Freedom"

King presides at an MIA mass meeting at Hutchinson Street Baptist Church. This meeting includes a training session in nonviolence led by King as well as the premiere of the FOR-produced film about the bus boycott, Walk to Freedom.

Gandhi Society for Human Rights

The Gandhi Society for Human Rights (also known as the Gandhi Society) was the brainchild of Harry Wachtel, a prominent New York attorney who was introduced to Martin Luther King, Jr., by Clarence B. Jones, King’s trusted legal advisor. Upon King’s solicitation, Wachtel joined Jones in defending four ministers of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in a libel suit, New York Times v. Sullivan, stemming from an advertisement in the New York Times. Wachtel met with King in New York in early 1962 and discussed the formation of a tax-exempt fund to cover expenses related to the suit and to channel needed financial support to the nonviolent civil rights movement. With King’s endorsement, Wachtel, Jones, and another New York lawyer, Theodore W. Kheel, founded the Gandhi Society for Human Rights. King was made honorary president, and Jones functioned as general counsel and acting executive director.

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