Douglass and King: Advice They Might Have Accepted from Thoreau

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Though Henry David Thoreau lived more than one hundred years before the time of Martin Luther King Jr., his philosophy lingered in the minds of many individuals. Thoreau was opposed to injustice in general and refused to support or to follow the unjust laws. His idealism and anarchism influenced the thinking of King. Douglass' narrative shows how his thinking would have been similar to that of Thoreau's.

Douglass' descriptions of the cruelty lived by African Americans are filled with horrific details that would touch anyone. He believed that slavery was not only dehumanizing for the slaves, but for the slaveholders as well. Douglass uses as an example the case of Mrs. Sophia Auld. Before she became a slaveholder, she was known to
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The individual is justified in acting out in civil disobedience when the government restricts the liberties of the individual. In the Declaration of Independence, our forefathers were going against British laws. It was considered an act of treason for them to separate from Britain and to create a newly formed government for America. Man is selfish by instinct, and those who run the government will try to take away the public's rights as stated under the Bill of Rights. Laws have been created to restrict our unalienable rights, therefore the individual should not allow the government to expand its role. He may choose to do this in several ways. He can tell his congressmen that he feels a law is unjust. If the congressman is unwilling or unable to change the law, he may make a proposition to change the law during the voting periods.

Civil disobedience is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "a refusal to obey governmental commands especially as a nonviolent means of protest."(Jacobus) We can see an example of this in U.S. history, when this theory was applied during the Civil Right Movement. The laws back then restricted African Americans from being able to attend public schools or use public restrooms that were designated as "white only." Even though they had paid taxes like everyone else, these types of segregation laws targeted minorities and made them second-rate citizens. Martin Luther King, who was sincere in exposing
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