Thoreau And King 's Ideas On Civil Disobedience

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Comparing and Contrasting: Thoreau and King’s Ideas on Civil Disobedience Henry David Thoreau was born in 1817, a time where slavery was legal. In 1849 Thoreau published an essay “Civil Disobedience” which explains his idea that the government is much more harmful than helpful and that man has the right to disobey the government when he feels it is being unjust, in his case it was slavery, American Imperialism, and the Mexican-American War. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929, 64 years after slavery was abolished, but America was still a racist country. A country made up of segregation of blacks from whites. In 1963 King wrote a letter while incarcerated defending his fellow African-American brethren for the strategy of nonviolent…show more content…
These two men were both imprisoned for choosing to break a law they felt was unjust. Thoreau, for refusing to pay a poll tax. King, for protesting the treatment of blacks in Birmingham. When choosing to break an unjust law there is something that needs to be remembered most people will not have the guts to do so out of fear or whatever the case may be. But what these two authors agree on is if action isn’t taken no change will occur, things don’t just fix themselves. Thoreau states, “They hesitate and they regret and sometimes they petition’ but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret (309).” There are many people who claim to be against slavery and the war but don’t do anything to stop either one. King states “We know through painful experience that freedom is never given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed (381).” Like Thoreau he was tired of people saying they would do something but didn’t so he decided to take direct action. They both believe that anyone who takes direct action and chooses not to follow an unjust law is already making a difference. Thoreau compares the government to a political machine while King just talks about social injustice and if
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