Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

Start Free Trial

What were the major obstacles and issues MLK faced as a non-violent movement leader?

Quick answer:

MLK's major obstacles and issues as the leader in the non-violent movement were that there were opposing black leaders who felt that civil disobedience would not lead to change. Malcolm X, for example, encouraged people to protest via “any means necessary." Another obstacle was that many people resented non-violence because black communities endured violence that often seemed to be sanctioned or dismissed by local governments in the south.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

MLK's major obstacles and issues as the leader in the non-violent movement were that there were opposing black leaders who felt that peaceful civil disobedience would not lead to change and also many people resented his goal to counteract the violence they endured with peaceful opposition, particularly when it often seemed that the local governments in the south sanctioned or turned a blind eye to violence against Black communities.

Specifically, in the March on Washington, the speakers allude to the horrible violence perpetrated on black citizens and protesters in Mississippi. For instance, in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, MLK says:

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

Many people endured violence at the hands of police and white supremacist groups first-hand or had friends and relatives who did, which made it difficult for MLK to keep people from responding with violence of their own. Moreover, the government did little to protect people.

In Alabama, for instance, the Birmingham church bombing on September 15, 1963, killed four young girls and injured many other people. It led to a violent clash between police and protesters. There were so many bombs set off in Birmingham at predominantly black churches that the city was referred to as "Bombingham." MLK was arrested there while leading a nonviolent protest and wrote his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Another obstacle was the opposing approach that other black leaders advocated that included the use of violence. For instance, in contrast to MLK's advocating peaceful protests, Malcolm X encouraged people to oppose violence and bias against black people “by any means necessary.”

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial