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a ‘non-violent’ approach to civil rights

Most early 1960s civil rights leaders did not believe in physically violent retaliation. However, much of the African-American rank-and-file, especially those leaders with strong working-class ties, tended to compliment nonviolent action with armed self-defense. For instance, prominent nonviolent activist Fred Shuttlesworth of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (and a leader of the 1963 Birmingham campaign), had worked closely with an armed defense group that was led by Colonel Stone Johnson. As Alabama historian Frye Gaillard writes,…these were the kind of men Fred Shuttlesworth admired, a mirror of the toughness he aspired to himself…They went armed [during the Freedom Rides], for it was one of the realities of the civil rights movement that however nonviolent it may have been at its heart, there was always a current of ‘any means necessary,’ as the black power advocates would say later on.[33]

During the March Against Fear, there was a division between those aligned with Martin Luther King, Jr. and those aligned with Carmichael, marked by their respective slogans, “Freedom Now” and “Black Power.”[34]

While King never endorsed the slogan, and in fact opposed the Black Power movement, his rhetoric sometimes came close to it. In his 1967 book Where Do We Go From Here?, King wrote that “power is not the white man’s birthright; it will not be legislated for us and delivered in neat government packages.”[35]