Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

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What was Martin Luther King Jr.'s conflict or dilemma?

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Martin Luther King didn't want blacks to wait anymore for what he called, in his "I Have a Dream" speech, payment on the promissory note whites had long ago given blacks that they would one day achieve equality. He wanted that equality to come now—but at the same time he knew it would be a disaster for the Civil Rights movement to embrace violence, often seen as the quickest way to frighten those in power and show serious intent.

King held true to the ideals of Gandhi and Christ that change must be nonviolent to be lasting and successful. Yet nonviolence was the slower way and King wanted action now. He was also accused, as he writes in his letter from Birmingham jail, of inciting others to violence for raising uncomfortable issues and speaking out. As he...

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