Civil disobedience refers to the act of breaking the law to fight on a moral principle. It is typically non-violent, and it is perhaps most frequently associated with the forms of peaceful protest practiced by people during the Civil Rights Era, such as Martin Luther King’s March on Washington and the sit-ins at café counters staged to protest racial segregation. In Henry David Thoreau's famous treatise called “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience,” he stated that a person must follow their conscience when the conscience conflicts with the law. This explains that the purpose of civil disobedience is to achieve something for the greater good. In other words, the purpose, in the eyes of the protesters, is social improvement.
There are numerous instances in which U.S. citizens engaged in civil disobedience and succeeded in making social improvements. It often takes civil disobedience to plant the seeds of change. In the history of the United States, many people fought against what they believed to be abuse in the government’s policies. The anti-war protests of the Vietnam era were acts of civil disobedience. The Abolitionists' activities against slavery were acts of civil disobedience. So were the activities of the women who fought for women’s suffrage and those of the workers who formed unions and instigated strikes against abusive labor practices. These are just a few of the many instances when acts of civil disobedience led to national reforms.