There were at least two reasons for Dr. King’s message of non-violence. One, that he actually believed in it. And I’m not trying to suggest that he didn’t, but the other had a political component to it. He knew that for him and his movement to accomplish what it wanted which was equality and civil rights for all Americans, that he needed more than just African-Americans behind him. That he needed Americans of other races. Because he was facing a simple numbers game.
That African-Americans at least to this point were a relatively small minority. And that they couldn’t go up against even just Anglo-Saxon Southerners who had most of the power down South, on their own. And that he also need positive media attention and not look like violent radicals, or anarchists. But serious intelligent people who had a message for the entire country and that they needed their support. Which is how he was able to bring in so many non-African Americans to his movement.
I’m not trying to say that Dr. King was a true pacifist and that if America was under attack from another country, that it shouldn’t fight back and that would be just one example. But he did have a pacifist approach when it came to the civil rights movement. He directed his people and marchers to simply just take it, for lack of a better phrase. Put up with the violence which help get out the message of what his movement was facing from the Anglo-Saxon racist establishment in America. Especially from the South. That way to fight back was to show the opposition for what they really were. Which were radical violent racists and win legal and policy battles.
Mr. Holt History: Martin Luther King, Jr On Love and Nonviolence