MLK Jr. on Civil Disobedience in “Why We Can’t Wait”

“One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.'” p.93

“An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal … A just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.” p.94

“One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” p.95

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MLKjr’s 10 Commandments for the Birmingham Demonstrations

  1. Meditate daily on the teaching and life of Jesus.
  2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
  3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

– Martin Luther King Jr in Why We Can’t Wait

We did not hesitate to call our movement an army. But it was a special army, with no supplies but its sincerity, no uniform but its determination, no arsenal except its faith, no currency but its conscience. It was an army that would move but not maul. It was an army that would sing but not slay. It was an army that would flank but not falter. It was an army to storm bastions of hatred, to lay siege to the fortress of segregation, to surround symbols of discrimination. It was an army whose allegiance was to God and whose strategy and intelligence were the eloquently simple dictates of conscience.

– Martin Luther King Jr in Why We Can’t Wait

MLK Jr. on Non-Violence in “Why We Can’t Wait”

“Like their predecessors, the Negro was willing to risk martyrdom in order to move and stir the social conscience of his community and the nation. Instead of submitting to surreptitious cruelty in thousands of dark jail cells and on countless shadowed street corners, he would force his oppressor to commit his brutality openly – in the light of day – with the rest of the world looking on.” p.31
“(Non-violence) enabled him to transmute hatred into constructive energy.” p.32
“(Militant extremists) cannot solve the problem because they seek to overcome a negative situation with negative means.” p.37
“Nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek … It is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends.” p.110
“Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And be bad now reached a day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.” p.191