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King, Martin Luther, Jr.  

Clayborne Carson

King gained national prominence as a black civil rights leader and, during his final years, as a critic of American military involvement in Vietnam. In his memoir, Stride Toward Freedom (1958), King recalled that when initially exposed to pacifism, he concluded that war “could serve as a negative good in the sense of preventing the spread and growth of an evil force.” Only after becoming familiar with Gandhian notions of nonviolent resistance was he convinced that “the love ethic of Jesus” could be “a potent instrument for social and collective transformation.” As the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King became a nationally known advocate of civil disobedience. He led protest movements in Montgomery (1955–56), Birmingham (1963), and Selma (1965), Alabama, that demonstrated the effectiveness of nonviolent tactics in spurring passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 ...