Part Two: Gandhian Nonviolence in the African-American Freedom Struggle

Part Two: Gandhian Nonviolence in the African-American Freedom Struggle



1. Opening Activity: Cut out the quotes in Handout C King and Gandhi Quotes and hand each student a strip of paper with either a Gandhi or a King quote. Students walk around the room and interact with each other till those with King quotes find those with Gandhi quotes that are similar in theme/content to their own, and vice versa. Partners read their quotes out loud to the class, explain the quotes in their own words, and discuss how they are similar in theme or content. After students have heard all the quotes, ask them if any King quotes seemed to contradict any Gandhi quotes in their essence. Discuss the differences or contradictions that the students noticed.

2. Use the chart in Handout D: How Nonviolence Entered the African-American Freedom Struggle to illustrate the various people and organizations that practiced nonviolent direct action in the African-American freedom struggle. Explain their role in introducing Gandhian nonviolent philosophy to the U.S. Some of the relationships that facilitated the transfer of Gandhian ideas are underlined in the text. More information on these people and organizations can be found in The King Encyclopedia.

3. Students watch the film Nashville: “We Were Warriors” on the Nashville student sit-in movement in 1960, thirty years after the Salt Satyagraha in India. Using the nine steps listed in Part One as a guide, students note relevant tactics used in the campaign. Pause the film periodically to allow students to take notes. Discussion Questions:

  • What were some of the nonviolent direct action/tactics used in the Nashville student sit-ins? Which of the steps would they fall under?

  • Was King involved in the Nashville sit-ins? What role did ordinary people play in this campaign? Explain the meaning and importance of grassroots participation and its role in nonviolent movements.

  • Imagine you are one of the students participating in the sit-ins. What Gandhi quote(s) (from the list in Handout A: Quotes) would you choose to describe the philosophy behind your campaign?

4. Students work with partners to identify at least two similarities and two differences in tactics used in the Salt Satyagraha and Nashville campaigns. Students participate in a class discussion comparing the two campaigns.

5. Homework Activity:
Students write a response to the following statement:
Drawing from the two films you have watched, compare and discuss the role of one of the following factors in the Salt Satyagraha and Nashville campaigns: media, laws/legal help, the tactic of jail-going, or top-down leadership vs. grassroots participation.

6. Extension Activity: The Salt Satyagraha and the Nashville sit-ins are only two of many nonviolent direct action campaigns in the Indian and African-American freedom struggles, respectively. Using other events in these freedom struggles, e.g. the 1922 Non Cooperation movement (India), the 1942 Quit India movement (India), the Montgomery Bus Boycott (US), and the Selma to Montgomery March (US)compare and contrast among other nonviolent campaigns. Compare the roles of Gandhi and King to the participation of ordinary citizens at the grassroots level. 

(Note: You may also use the movies, Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi and the Eyes on the Prize video series.)



  • Handout CKing and Gandhi Quotes
  • Handout DHow Nonviolence Entered the African-American Freedom Struggle
  • Excerpt from the movie "A Force More Powerful," Episode 1: Nashville: We Were Warriors (duration ca. 26 min.) 
  • For the extension activity: 1. Film: Gandhi, directed by Richard Attenborough (1982) and 2. Documentary series: Eyes on the Prize produced by Henry Hampton (1987). 


Part Three:

Continuing the Legacy of Nonviolence 

Back to Beginning: 

Nonviolence in the Indian and African-American Freedom Struggles

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