Civil disobedience
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Civil Disobedience. By: Alan May, Victoria Jones, and Laura Dunnagan. Thoreau’s Definition of Civil Disobedience. Excerpts from his essay “Civil Disobedience” Henry David Thoreau By: Alan May. Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”.

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Civil Disobedience

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Civil disobedience

Civil Disobedience

By: Alan May, Victoria Jones, and Laura Dunnagan


Thoreau s definition of civil disobedience

Thoreau’s Definition of Civil Disobedience

Excerpts from his essay “Civil Disobedience”

Henry David Thoreau

By: Alan May


Thoreau s civil disobedience

Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”

“If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth—certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

(see next slide for explanation)


Thoreau s civil disobedience1

Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”

Thoreau says here, basically: If you can, within reason, do not support an unjust law. Thoreau appeals to his audience, telling them they should not support a government that acts unjustly, even if they have to act outside the legally acceptable range to make their disapproval clear.


Thoreau s civil disobedience2

Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”

“I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name—-if ten honest men only—ay, if one HONEST man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co-partnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America.”

If one man, opposing slavery, were to act on his beliefs, it would be hugely effective. Thoreau is saying here that having a conscience is not enough; one must also act on it.


Thoreau s civil disobedience3

Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”

“If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.”

Again, Thoreau is saying: ACT. You must “walk the walk” in addition to “talking the talk.”


Civil disobedience1

Civil Disobedience

Abolitionist Movement

Victoria Jones


Background john brown

Background: John Brown

  • John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry happened on October 16, 1859 where he and 21 other men attacked an armory and attempted to start a slave rebellion.

  • They were defeated quickly. Many were killed although a few were captured and tried for treason.

  • John Brown was one of the captured and was tried, convicted, and hanged.


Background william lloyd garrison

Background: William Lloyd Garrison

  • William Lloyd Garrison owned his own newspaper called The Liberator in which he expressed his views and opinions on slavery.

  • His was against slavery and while some of his views were unpopular nothing stopped him from publishing each issue.


Background harriet tubman

Background: Harriet Tubman

  • Harriet Tubman was born into slavery and was actually named Araminta Ross, but after getting married she changed her name.

  • She escaped to freedom and then went back to the South to help many of her family members and other slaves escape to freedom.

  • Returning to the South 19 times she used many different measures to get the slaves to freedom and she never lost a single one of them.


Civil disobedience and john brown

Civil Disobedience and John Brown

  • Even though many were killed and the raid didn’t directly accomplish much, the raid did support Civil Disobedience. John Brown and many of his followers believed slavery to be wrong that needed to be righted. The only way they saw that this could be fixed was by arming the slaves and beginning a rebellion. Even though the raid itself was a failure in that the slaves were never armed and that John Brown was defeated and hanged, it did show support for Civil Disobedience because John Brown and his followers were doing what they felt was right, they were following their consciences.


Civil disobedience and john brown1

Civil Disobedience and John Brown

  • His actions also support Civil Disobedience in that he wasn’t sitting by doing nothing, he was taking action. In “Civil Disobedience”, Thoreau talks about how many of the “abolitionists” thought they were protesting slavery but they weren’t doing much to try and stop it. He encouraged them to act, even if it meant breaking the law. John Brown did just that and, even though it cost him his life, he ignited a spark in some of the other abolitionists of the time.


Civil disobedience and garrison

Civil Disobedience and Garrison

  • William Lloyd Garrison was an abolitionist and even though he did nothing to the extreme of John Brown, he did express unpopular views and the idea that there should be passive resistance against such an evil. Garrison had his own antislavery newspaper (The Liberator) and he expressed many ideas that were acknowledged by society but very unpopular. He wrote about how all Black slaves should be emancipated and treated in the way that the Declaration of Independence sets forth: that all men are created equal. In his paper he stressed that a nonviolent or passive resistance should be founded against slavery, which is what “Civil Disobedience” also stressed.


Civil disobedience and garrison1

Civil Disobedience and Garrison

  • Garrison even went so far to say that the Constitution, the very foundation of the government, was a pro-slavery document. Garrison along with a select few felt that since the Constitution allowed slavery to be legal and exist in the US it was a proslavery document. By supporting the government and in turn the Constitution, slavery was also supported. By supporting the government and the Constitution, the citizens were also supporting a document that legally allowed slavery to be present. This belief was very unpopular at the time, but that didn’t stop Garrison from taking action to put his ideas and opinions out there. He followed his conscience and did what he felt what was the right thing to do even though it didn’t support the government and wasn’t popular. He did exactly what Thoreau said to do, act and do what is right by any means.


Civil disobedience and harriet tubman

Civil Disobedience and Harriet Tubman

  • One of the hardest working and most famous of all those who participated in the emancipation of slavery was Harriet Tubman. She was born a slave and escaped to freedom but, instead of simply stopping there and only caring for herself, she went back into the south nineteen times to help others. By going back into the South she broke the Fugitive Slave Act which stated that any slaves that escaped needed to be brought back to the South to their owners. Although she didn’t stand up and speak like so many who were against slavery at the time, she simply acted in her own way. She felt that her part in the antislavery movement was to help people get to the freedom they rightfully deserved. She followed her conscious and took action instead of sitting by and doing nothing.


Civil disobedience and harriet tubman1

Civil Disobedience and Harriet Tubman

  • She didn’t let the Fugitive Slave Act stop her from doing what she believed was right. She put herself at risk for the sake of others. “Civil Disobedience” says that men (or women in this case) should follow what their conscience tells them, even if it goes against everything in society and do what is right. It also says that action should be taken to achieve what is right. Tubman, while putting her own safety to the side, did the right thing by going back and freeing other slaves.


Civil disobedience influence in the civil rights movement

Civil Disobedience Influence in the Civil Rights Movement

By: Laura Dunnagan


Civil rights example one rosa parks

Civil Rights Example One: Rosa Parks

Involvement with ‘Civil Disobedience’

On December1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Mrs. Rosa Louise Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. In this time, it was required for all African American people to willingly give up their seats in the bus to any white person who needed one, and in not giving up her seat, Mrs. Parks was willfully disobeying the government. After Mrs. Parks’s rebellion, the African American population in Montgomery planned a boycott of all city buses that lasted for 381 days.


Civil rights example one rosa parks1

Civil Rights Example One: Rosa Parks

  • Parks willfully disobeyed the government when she refused to give up her seat to the white man. She was trying to get equal rights that she believed she deserved.


Civil rights example two brown v board of education

Civil Rights Example Two: Brown v. Board of Education

  • The Browns, an African American family, lived by an all-white school that they wanted their daughter to attend. But, because she was black, and the school was for whites only, the young girl was refused and forced to travel many miles every day to go to school. The Browns sued the all-white school in their neighborhood because their daughter couldn’t attend. The case eventually got to the Supreme Court, but there were many similar cases – families suing schools because they couldn’t attend – so the five cases were all filed under one name: Brown v. Board of Education. On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court overturned the decision of a previous court case, Plessy v. Ferguson during the Brown v. Board of Education case. The Plessy v. Ferguson case allowed for “separate but equal” public facilities, which included public schooling. The Brown v. Board of education repealed that and decided “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” They Brown v. Board decision helped to integrate the United States.


Civil rights example two brown v board of education1

Civil Rights Example Two: Brown v. Board of Education

  • The people involved in Brown v. Board of Education went against the government in that they were fighting to repeal a law that had been endorsed in a court case. They knew that Plessy v. Ferguson allowed “separate but equal” schooling, but they were willing to go against that to gain the right of education that they believed they deserved.


Civil rights example three sweatt v painter

Civil Rights Example Three: Sweatt v. Painter

  • Heman Merion Sweatt was denied admission to UT Law School because he was black. At the time, state law forbade the admission of African Americans to that law school. He refused an offer to go to a separate law school made for African Americans because the schools were obviously unequal. It was decided that because of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, he be admitted to the University of Texas. The Supreme Court thus proved lack of equality between whites and blacks.

  • Sweattwent against the beliefs of the people, as well as the University of Texas and the government, to show that he deserved the education given to white citizens.


Works cited definition of civil disobedience

Works Cited(Definition of Civil Disobedience)

Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience.” American Transcendentalism Web. Virginia Commonwealth University, 1999. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/authors/thoreau/civil/>.

“Henry David Thoreau.” Photograph. N.d.Mass.Gov. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/walden/thoreau.htm>.


Works cited abolition

Works Cited (Abolition)

  • Finkelman, Paul. "Garrison's Constitution." National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 29 Nov. 2011.

  • "Harriet Tubman." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 28 Nov 2011.

  • "John Brown." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 28 Nov 2011.

  • "William Lloyd Garrison." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 28 Nov 2011

  • “abolitionist‑art.jpg.” Photograph. Create an Anti-Slavery Magazine. Web. 28 Nov 2011.


Works cited civil rights

Works Cited (Civil Rights)

  • Rosa Parks

    “Biography.” Rosaparks.org. Rosa & Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, n.d. Web. 28 November 2011.

    “Rosa Parks.” Achievement.org. Academy of Achievement, n.d. Web. 29 November 2011.

  • Brown v. Board of Education

    “History & Culture.” nps.gov. National Park Service, n.d. Web. 29 November 2011.

    “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.” History.com. The History Channel, n.d. Web 28 November 2011.

    “Brown v. Board of Education (1954).” Blsciblogs.baruch.cuny.edu. 10 February 2011. Web. 29 November 2011.

  • Sweatt v. Painter

    “Sweatt v. Painter (No. 44).” Legal Information Institute. n.d. Web. 28 November 2011.

    “Sweatt v. Painter.” Houseofrussell.com. 25 September 2008. Web. 29 November 2011.


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