- The definition of civil disobedience refers to the practice of breaking laws, usually in a non-violent way, as part of a protest because the laws are believed to be unfair or a violation of fundamental and inalienable human rights.
An example of civil disobedience is when Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus where African Americans were supposed to sit prior to the civil rights movement.
civil disobedience definition by Webster's New World
civil disobedience definition by American Heritage Dictionary
civil disobedience - Cultural Definition
The refusal to obey a law out of a belief that the law is morally wrong.
- In the nineteenth century, the American author Henry David Thoreau wrote “Civil Disobedience,” an important essay justifying such action.
- In the twentieth century, civil disobedience was exercised by Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for independence in India. Civil disobedience, sometimes called nonviolent resistance or passive resistance, was also practiced by some members of the civil rights movement in the United States, notably Martin Luther King, Jr., to challenge segregation of public facilities; a common tactic of these civil rights supporters was the sit-in. King defended the use of civil disobedience in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
(1849) An essay by Henry David Thoreau. It contains his famous statement “That government is best which governs least,” and asserts that people's obligations to their own conscience take precedence over their obligations to their government. Thoreau also argues that if, in following their conscience, people find it necessary to break the laws of the state, they should be prepared to pay penalties, including imprisonment.
- Thoreau himself went to jail for refusing to pay a tax to support the Mexican War.
civil disobedience - Legal Definition