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In 1848, Henry David Thoreau used the term civil disobedience, and since that time the term and practice have been widely used. Citizens frequently use civil disobedience as a form of social protest against laws and governing forces that are viewed by the collective as unjust to society, a threat to a person or group’s security, or potentially intruding on individual privacy. This entry defines civil disobedience and its purpose, reviews historically significant acts of civil protest, describes how civil disobedience contributed to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and concludes with a review of two influential marches that helped facilitate progress toward equality.

For an action to be considered an act of civil disobedience, certain criteria must be met. The protest must ...

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