Explain Dr. King's basis of the need for direct action.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When Dr. King opens his book with the depiction of two African- American children in the condition of 1960s America, he wishes to illuminate why there is a pressing need for direct action.  The struggle for poverty and limited opportunity are realities confronting millions of African- American children.  Dr. King makes the point that for these children, the need for direct action is absolute.  When he suggests that "both of them squared their shoulders and lifted their eyes towards heaven," it makes Dr. King's claim clear that for the future of children the need for direct action is absolute.

Dr. King points out that the need for direct action is critical because of the time period in which African- Americans find themselves.  Disillusionment with the "promissory note" that was assured to African- Americans both in American History and in American society, as well as the need to change what is into what can be form the basis of Dr. King's claims that direct action is needed.  When Dr. King suggests that direct action is needed, it comes from believing that waiting for resolution is not as effective as ensuring that it does happen:  "It is because the Negro knows that no person—as well as no nation—can truly exist half slave and half free that he has embroiders upon his banners the significant word 'now."  The "fierce urgency of now" in social, economic, political, and moral terms helps to make Dr. King's case that direct action is critical.  In asserting Civil Rights for people of color, Dr. King's need and call for direct action is immediate.  The ability to remove the condition that the boy in Harlem faces and the girl in Birmingham faces is what Dr. King believes justifies the need for direct action.

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