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World House Podcast: Episode 7 - Pilgrimage to Nonviolence

Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Coretta, both wearing garlands after landing at the airport in New Delhi, India in 1959.

R. SATAKOPAN / AP

Jun 9 2020

In this episode, we are talking about King's commitment to nonviolence and his connection to Mahatma Gandhi and his teachings. Nonviolence was the fundamental ideology that guided Martin Luther King, Jr.'s leadership during the civil rights movement. Throughout his activism, in his sermons and public speeches, King advocated for nonviolent resistance to fight racism and social injustices.

Long before King became the spokesman for the civil rights movement, many other activists were motivated by and committed to nonviolence and its application in the struggle for justice and freedom. King met with and was inspired by many of the "African American Gandhians." Many of them were his teachers and mentors, such as Benjamin Mays, Mordecai Johnson, Bayard Rustin, James Lawson, and others.

To deepen his understanding of Gandhi, King traveled to India. On 3 February 1959, Martin and Coretta King embarked on a five-week-long journey through India. They toured the homeland of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the leader of India's independence movement. Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence and his success in ending the colonial rule of the British Empire over India convinced King that "nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity."

During the busy five weeks, the Kings met with Indian politicians, scholars, Gandhi's family members, and ordinary citizens. The trip had a profound impact on King, as he later surmised. Experiencing firsthand the results of Gandhi's nonviolent activism, Martin Luther King, Jr., solidified his belief in the power of nonviolence as a guiding principle in the pursuit of freedom and justice.

 

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Clayborne Carson, Liberation Curriculum