Having identified and justified the causes of dissatisfaction, King proceeds to detail the means for carrying out this revolution. Although he praises the strategy of pursuing legal victories that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had conducted for decades, he argues that this strategy is slow and often results in only token victories. On the other hand, he condemns those who call for violent revolution, claiming that bloodshed will result only in “racial suicide” as whites retaliate with greater violence. King advocates nonviolence as the only alternative to these positions. He marshals several arguments in support of nonviolence as an effective means of achieving a civil rights revolution.
King points to the economic boycotts during the American Revolution and to Mohandas K. Gandhi’s leadership against British colonial rule in India as examples of nonviolence that have proven effective in the past. However, historical evidence does not explain the reasons for the success of nonviolent protest. Nonviolence works because it possesses a moral authority that sheer physical strength and brutality lack. King believes that although Americans retain a frontier mentality that demands response and retribution, they will recognize the superiority of the moral position that those who practice nonviolence hold.
King maintains that nonviolence will be especially effective in securing civil rights for African Americans because it will bring to light the unjust and brutal behaviors practiced by the whites opposed to integration. For centuries, blacks have lived in fear of violence perpetrated at night or in some isolated jail cell. By bringing the beatings into the streets before news cameras and newspaper reporters, nonviolent protesters will gain the support of Americans throughout the nation who are horrified by the atrocities they witness on their televisions.
Nonviolence also brings various benefits to the community and the individual. King claims that a nonviolent “army” is an egalitarian force. Each member of this army, regardless of wealth or social status, faces the same consequences, the same risk of a beating or imprisonment. Thus, nonviolence strengthens bonds within the community. In addition, nonviolence requires a level of courage and self-discipline that contributes to an individual’s self-esteem. Far from being an act of cowardice, as some critics implied, nonviolence demands a brave heart. It serves as a constructive channel for feelings of anger and frustration.