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Introduction: Civil Disobedience

  1. Write the words "Civil Disobedience" on the chalk board, white board, or a piece of chart paper.
  2. Distribute copies of the Scenario Worksheet to your students. Have a couple of students read the scenarios out loud. When all three scenarios have been shared, ask your students:
    • Which of these scenarios is an example of civil disobedience?
  3. Once the correct scenario has been chosen, ask your students: Based on this example, how would you define civil disobedience? Write the responses on the chalk board, white board, or a piece of chart paper under the words "Civil Disobedience." After as many students have had a chance to respond as possible, add anything to the class definition that you feel may be missing.
  4. Explain that civil disobedience, as a philosophy, was first described and used by Henry David Thoreau in America in 1849. Since then it has been used by those fighting for their rights and national independence throughout the world. A few examples include: Mahatma Gandhi's fight for Indian independence from Great Britain and the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a proponent of civil disobedience, and it was used throughout the American Civil Rights Movement. Emphasize that non-violence was a central component of civil disobedience and a challenging one for civil rights activists, who were often brutally attacked and beaten.
  5. Have your students turn over their Scenario Worksheet and review together [lightbox:11802]Gandhi's Rules for Civil Disobedience[/lightbox]. Explain that Gandhi developed certain rules of civil disobedience during his fight for Indian independence. Civil disobedience as practiced by King and his followers followed similar rules.
  6. Ask your students:
    • What are some examples of civil disobedience from the Civil Rights Movement?
      (Possible responses might include: sit-ins at lunch counters, refusing to move from a seat in the white section/black section of a bus, a peaceful march, a bus boycott, etc.) You may want to write your students' responses on the chalk board, white board, or chart paper.
    • How do you think you might respond if you were participating in an act of civil disobedience and someone taunted or cursed you?
    • How do you think you might respond if you were participating in an act of civil disobedience and someone attacked you physically?
    • What issues would you be willing to engage in civil disobedience for?
  7. Explain that responding to violence with non-violence required a lot of training and self-discipline.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Introduction: Civil Disobedience." (Viewed on September 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/node/11810>.

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