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Civil Disobedience A Method for Creating Change. View the following film clips fom Great Books: Walden (also linked at 

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Presentation on theme: "Civil Disobedience A Method for Creating Change. View the following film clips fom Great Books: Walden (also linked at "— Presentation transcript:

1 Civil Disobedience A Method for Creating Change

2 View the following film clips fom Great Books: Walden (also linked at  7Q 7Q   dM dM

3 Civil Disobedience  Refusal to obey a law on the grounds that it is immoral or unjust in itself, or furthers injustice.  Goal: to call attention to an unjust law, & appeal to public’s sense of justice; to clog the system and make the law unenforceable; to challenge the law in the courts.

4 Roots of the Idea  Henry David Thoreau Jailed in the 1840s for refusing to pay a poll tax. The tax supported the war with Mexico and the extension of slavery, which he strongly opposed. Thoreau did pay his other taxes. Coined the term “civil disobedience” in the title of his essay arguing in favor of non-violent opposition to slavery.

5 Thoreau’s civil disobedience Key Arguments: Unjust Laws Exist  “Shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once...”  Unjust laws require our cooperation in order to work. He advocated resistance: "I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn."  Normal legal channels to overturn those laws either do not exist or take too long.  Civil disobedience effective: if abolitionists withdrew their support of government, then slavery would end in a peaceful revolution.

6 Thoreau’s civil disobedience  IF the law REQUIRES YOU to be the “AGENT OF INJUSTICE TO ANOTHER,” then break the law.  If the Government had to put all the lawbreakers in jail and prosecute them, it would be overwhelmed and give up

7 Thoreau’s civil disobedience  "Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority;... but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight."

8 Civil Disobedience in US History  Women’s Suffrage Movement Susan B. Anthony voted  Right to Birth Control Margaret Sanger distributed information and contraceptives  Civil Rights for Minority Groups Gender Sexual Racial Philosophical (Scopes Trial)

9 The Need for Civil Rights in America  Until the 1960s, racial and ethnic minorities were sometimes refused service in restaurants and motels, denied access to city swimming pools and parks, and excluded from public schools and universities. In some states, it was even a crime to marry someone of a different race.  This racism was not only acceptable, it was required under the law. Called de jure discrimination – official government policy. Violators were subject to arrest and imprisonment.

10 Examples of racist laws  In 1955, a black woman named Rosa Parks was arrested for the crime of refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. This incident sparked the civil rights movement.  Until 1967, it was a felony – punishable with 5 years in prison – for an interracial couple to marry. The Lovings married in 1958 and spent 9 years as fugitives. When they were arrested, they successfully challenged the law, which finally was overturned by the Supreme Court.

11 IF the law REQUIRES YOU to be the “AGENT OF INJUSTICE TO ANOTHER,” then break the law. What if the bus drivers in Montgomery had refused to make African Americans give up their seats?

12 U.S. Civil Rights Movement In 1950s and 60s, responding to discriminatory laws and practices, civil rights movement emerged. Goal: to bring the issue of racism on to the national agenda, to stir the conscience of white Americans who were largely ignorant and complacent.

13 Nonviolent Resistance Strategies (most of which are NOT civil disobedience)  Sit-ins at segregated businesses (esp. restaurants)  Boycotts of segregated buses & businesses  Marches  Lawsuits  Voter registration drives  Newspaper ads and articles Activists were fired from jobs; expelled from schools. Law enforcement used dogs, fire hoses, tear gas against them. Hate groups employed beatings, bombs, house & church fires, and even murder.

14 Lawful protests vs. civil disobedience  Only unlawful non-violent protest is civil disobedience. Actions that do not break the law are NOT civil disobedience.  Examples: Boycotts of certain agricultural products led by the United Farm Workers in the 1960s & 70s (Cesar Chavez & Dolores Huerta). Anti-war protestors outside Las Cruces City Hall every Wednesday afternoon.

15 Civil disobedience  Public in two ways: Not done in secret but in the open Intended to serve broad public interest, not individual self interest.

16 Current examples of civil disobedience  The Tucson School District (AZ) Governing Board was forced to cancel its meeting after ethnic studies supporters stormed the meeting room and chained themselves to chairs.  Anti-abortion protesters who block access to clinics that provide abortions..

17 Susan B. Anthony

18 Alice Paul

19 Henry Gerber Activist b. June 29, 1892 d. December 31, 1972 “Nobody believes we can do it—reporters, opponents—except ourselves." Henry Gerber was among the earliest gay rights activists in America. He founded the nation’s first gay organization and gay publication. … he served in the U.S. Army during the occupation of Germany. While in Germany, he was exposed to the homosexual emancipation movement. After returning to Chicago, Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights, which advocated for gays and lesbians. The Society for Human Rights was shut down for “moral turpitude.” The Chicago police arrested Gerber and tried him three times. Although Gerber was found not guilty, the legal fees cost him his life savings and his job.

20 Martin Luther King, Jr.  As a minister in Montgomery, Alabama, helped organize the bus boycott of , which sparked the modern civil rights movement.  Became founder and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference  Led numerous civil rights marches and activities involving nonviolent direct action.  Assassinated in 1968, as he was beginning to build an anti-war and economic justice coalition.

21 “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” 1963 (MLK)  Difference between just and unjust laws: Unjust laws are those that majorities try to impose on minorities while exempting themselves. Unjust laws also are those that apply to minorities who have had no voice in passing them. Finally, laws may be just on their face, but unjust in their application.

22 “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” 1963  "I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."

23 Successes of Civil Rights Movement  Legislation: Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, Open Housing Act of  Ignited other civil rights movements in the U.S.: for Latinos, women, Native Americans, people with disabilities, immigrants, prisoners, gays & lesbians, etc.  Developed political strategies used by other groups as well.

24 Rosa Parks On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42- year-old African American woman who worked as a seamstress, boarded this Montgomery City bus to go home from work. On this bus on that day, Rosa Parks initiated a new era in the American quest for freedom and equality. She sat near the middle of the bus, just behind the 10 seats reserved for whites. Soon all of the seats in the bus were filled. When a white man entered the bus, the driver (following the standard practice of segregation) insisted that all four blacks sitting just behind the white section give up their seats so that the man could sit there. Mrs. Parks, who was an active member of the local NAACP, quietly refused to give up her seat.

25 America was built on equality and opportunity, but when those things are denied, it's time to fight back. A group of Mexican American students who did just that when they staged a compelling 1968 walkout to protest the injustices of the public high-school system in East Los Angeles.

26 Kelli Peterson Students stage walk-out against school club ban SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN) -- Students at Salt Lake City high schools staged a walkout Friday, protesting the school board's ban of all extracurricular clubs to avoid having a gay-straight alliance.


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