Six Principles of Kingian Nonviolence

Principle 1: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.

  • It is a positive force confronting the forces of injustice and utilizes the righteous indignation and spiritual, emotional, and intellectual capabilities of people as the vital force for change and reconciliation. 

Principle 2: The Beloved Community is the framework for the future.

  • The nonviolent concept is an overall effort to achieve a reconciled world by raising the level of relationships among people to a height where justice prevails and persons attain their full human potential. 

Principle 3: Attack forces of evil not persons doing evil.

  • The nonviolent approach helps one analyze the fundamental conditions, policies and practices of the conflict rather than reacting to one’s opponents or their personalities. 

Principle 4: Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve a goal.

  • Self-chosen suffering is redemptive and helps the movement grow in a spiritual as well as a humanitarian dimension. The moral authority of voluntary suffering for a goal communicates the concern to one’s own friends and community as well as to the opponent.  

Principle 5: Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence.

  • The nonviolent attitude permeates all aspects of the campaign.  It provides a mirror type reflection of the reality of the condition to one’s opponent and the community at large.  Specific activities must be designed to maintain a high level of spirit and morale during a nonviolent campaign. 

Principle 6: The Universe is on the side of justice.

  • Truth is universal and human society and each human being is oriented to the just sense of order of the universe.  The fundamental values in all of the world’s great religions include the concept that the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice. For the nonviolent practitioner, nonviolence introduces a new moral context in which nonviolence is both the means and the ends. 


Six Steps of Kingian Nonviolence

Step 1: Information Gathering

The way you determine the facts, the options for change and the timing of pressure for raising the issue is a collective process.

Step 2: Education

Is the process of developing articulate leaders, who are knowledgeable about the issue.

Step 3: Personal Commitment

Means looking at your internal and external involvement in the nonviolent campaign and preparing yourself for long-term as well as short-term action.

Step 4: Negotiation

Is the art of bringing together your views and those of your opponent to arrive at a just conclusion or clarify the unresolved issues, at which point, the conflict is formalized.

Step 5: Direct Action

Occurs when negotiations have broken down or failed to produce a just response to the contested issues and conditions.

Step 6: Reconciliation

Is the mandatory closing step of a campaign, when the opponents and proponents celebrate the victory and provide joint leadership to implement the change.

Downloadable PDFs

Pilgrimage to Nonviolence – April 13, 1960

Letter from a Birmingham Jail – April 16, 1963

Chicago Freedom Movement Demands – July 11, 1966




Martin Luther King Jr.’s six principles of nonviolence performed as a song

Martin Luther King Jr.’s six principles of nonviolence performed as a song