Interlude: The Paradox of Nonviolence

  • James A. Colaiaco


Throughout his public career, King was criticized because the nonviolent protests he led often generated violence. In the wake of the Birmingham campaign, journalist Reese Cleghorn wrote that King knew well that ‘the “peaceful demonstrations” he organized would bring, at the very least, tough repressive measures by the police’.1 When Time magazine chose King as ‘Man of the Year’ for 1963, its feature article contained the following observation: ‘King preaches endlessly about nonviolence, but his protest movements often lead to violence’.2 When King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964, U. S. News & World Report, in an article entitled ‘Man of Conflict Wins a Peace Prize’, remarked that many Americans believed it ‘extraordinary that this prize should go to a man whose fame is based upon his battle for civil rights for Negroes — and whose activities often lead to violence’.3 A 1965 article in the conservative National Review, entitled ‘The Violence of Nonviolence’, charged that King’s campaigns, depending upon ‘the provocation of violence’, constituted a ‘violent assault upon representative, constitutional government’.4 Three years later, shortly after King announced plans for the Poor People’s Campaign, the National Review assailed what it called King’s ‘insurrectionary methods’, and solemnly warned of impending ‘anarchy’.5


Federal Government Federal System Police Power Fourteenth Amendment Interstate Commerce Commission 
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  1. 4.
    Frank Meyer, ‘The Violence of Nonviolence’, National Review, (20 April 1965), p. 327.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Frank Meyer, ‘Showdown With Insurrection’, National Review, (16 January 1968), p. 36.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Lionel Lokos, The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King, (New York, 1968), p. 225.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    King, ‘Behind the Selma March’, Saturday Review, (3 April 1965), p. 16.Google Scholar
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    Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, (Boston, 1973), pp. 109’13; 657–8.Google Scholar
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    M. K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance, (New York, 1961), p. 134.Google Scholar
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    James F. Childress, Civil Disobedience and Political Obligation, (New Haven, Conn., 1971), p. 213, n. 81.Google Scholar
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    Richard Gregg, The Power of Non-Violence, new ed. (New York, 1944), chapter VII.Google Scholar
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    James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time, (New York, 1963), p. 21.Google Scholar
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    Charles V. Hamilton, ed., The Black Experience in American Politics, (New York, 1973), pp. 155, 157.Google Scholar
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    Alan F. Westin, ed., Freedom Now: The Civil-Rights Struggle in America, (New York, 1964), p. 33.Google Scholar
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    Haywood Burns, ‘The Federal Government and Civil Rights’, in Leon Friedman, ed., Southern Justice, (New York, 1965), p. 235.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© James A. Colaiaco 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • James A. Colaiaco
    • 1
  1. 1.BaldwinUSA

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