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On the Selma moment

Summary

Maria J Stephan answers the question: how can you maintain non-violence in the face of violence?

Summary

Maria J Stephan answers the question: how can you maintain non-violence in the face of violence?

Transcript

A classic campaign during the US civil rights movement was the Selma march, which attracted hundreds of thousands of participants. And it was a seminal moment in the civil rights movement because these marchers ended up confronting the police, and violence was used against them, and water cannons, hoses, batons – so significant violence was used against the protesters, and they kept going. And people often ask, “How did you maintain non-violent discipline in this moment?”

And a lot of that can be explained by, yes, the spiritual resources, the commitment to non-violence which was articulated by leaders like King and others. And the participants had been trained in how to maintain non-violent discipline in these difficult situations. So in the basements of churches, there were trainings in how to do civil disobedience, non-violent direct action, and how not to respond to violence with violence when provoked. And so these combinations of the spiritual and the practical-strategic really came to bear in the Selma march.