Essays on Civil Disobedience

Essay Introduction

Every person in the United States has a voice and a right to freedom of speech. Every person also has their own set of beliefs and morals. However, it is believed that we must also obey and follow the laws set forth by our government. If your own government has laws set in place that challenge your own conscience, beliefs, and morals, do you simply just obey without question? Henry David Thoreau once asked, “Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislation? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first and subjects afterward (Thoreau 2).” Thoreau believes we must not let go of our morals and that we should put our moral obligations above lawful ones. Sometimes there is no other choice but to disobey if the change is truly needed. In many cases, civil disobedience is not only justified but essential in changing laws that violate our rights as human beings.

Research Paper on Civil Disobedience

Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat is an excellent example of civil disobedience that launched a life-changing movement for many African-Americans. On December 1st, 1955, she had been riding the bus after a long day’s work. The law at this time required passengers in the “colored section” to move from their seats if space ran out in the designated “white section” (Recchiuti par. 3). Parks was told to give her seat to another passenger, and she refused (par. 2). At this moment, many would argue that this single act sparked the launch of the Civil Rights Movement (History 0:00-0:22). She was put on trial for this act and sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was one of the most successful and influential acts of civil disobedience in history.

Argumentative Essay Examples on Civil Disobedience

Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the organizers of the boycott, and this helped launch him into the public’s eye as one of the most influential leaders of the Civil Rights Movement (Hansan par. 8). From this, many more protests occurred. In 1963, King was preparing to lead a demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama. The police chief in the town got an injunction from the state court against all demonstrations. King stated that he would ignore the injunction and carry on with the protest.

He led approximately 1000 African-Americans towards the business district and was promptly arrested, along with one of his top aides (Rothman, par. 2). While in jail, King wrote a letter addressing comments made by a few critics. In this letter, he stated: Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong with having an ordinance that requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest. I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out.

In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist? That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that their conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice is, in reality, expressing the highest respect for the law. (King, par. 15)

Thesis Statement for Civil Disobedience Essay

Sometimes laws need to be broken before they can be fixed. And the point that King is trying to make isn’t that we should go around just breaking laws just because we disagree with them. Laws are excellent to have and prevent absolute chaos. However, when they are used against us to deny us basic human rights, then it becomes a problem. If someone is to break a law that they deem unjust, they must willingly accept the consequences. This acceptance of the penalty is what makes the message they are trying to convey even stronger. The only way they were able to end segregation and obtain the right to vote was by disobeying these unjust laws set in place by our government. They had to stand up and accept the punishment, but they accepted it with full responsibility. The Civil Rights Movement was an incredibly important time in history for African-Americans. They were one step closer to equality.

Titles: Civil Disobedience in the Women’s Suffrage Movement

In an interview with Andrea Thimesch, I asked her in what situations did she think civil disobedience was most effective. “I think it’s kind of hard to say because I believe that civil disobedience is part of the democratic process and part of free speech and things like that. But really, the effectiveness is just being seen because if a problem stays invisible and people don’t make enough noise, then it’s always going to be a problem. Probably the most successful sign of civil disobedience would have been the woman suffrage movement, like the women’s right to vote. I think that’s the most successful push for demonstration of civil disobedience,” stated Thimesch. The woman suffrage movement is a great example where civil disobedience brought change to the constitution.

The Power and Impact of Civil Disobedience in Advancing Equality and Justice

While the word suffrage simply means “the right to vote,” this movement was about much more than that. They were fighting for equality in a society where, during that time, men held most of the power. This movement took place over the course of 72 years. This wasn’t an isolated event in the U.S. either, as women across the world were struggling with equality (Dolton 31). They made great use of civil disobedience by hosting parades, petitioning, holding demonstrations, and street speaking (“Tactics and” 1). I agree with Thimesch’s answer that visibility is a large part of what makes protesting effective. By being visible and putting the word out there, it led to the passing of the 19th Amendment. Women finally had the right the vote. 96


Civil disobedience is a strong way to incite change when it truly is needed. There are many more examples of protesting that caused change in a good way. In my examples, I am focused mainly on those that ended with changing laws or creating new amendments. The people mentioned in this essay were incredibly brave. Most people fear breaking the law, but these people don’t. They accepted the punishment and continued to fight for justice. Sometimes unjust laws need to be broken in order for people to realize how unjust they are.

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