What Are Some Examples of Civil Disobedience in U.S. History?

The United States has a long history of civil disobedience, stretching back to the Boston Tea Party and continuing through the Suffrage and Civil Rights movements. While some of the country's most notable acts of civil disobedience have been non-violent occupations, other instances such as anti-war protests have resulted in violent clashes with police and opposition.

Civil disobedience is an option when a person feels that a law is immoral or against her personal conscience. Henry David Thoreau's "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" is one of the main texts about the practice, and states that when a person's conscience and the laws clash, the conscience must win. Thoreau's arrest for refusing to participate in the United States' war with Mexico in 1849 was one example of civil disobedience in the United States, and protests against the Vietnam War and Gulf War utilized many of his tactics.

The Civil Rights movement had many instances of civil disobedience: sit-ins at segregated establishments, marches and boycotts all helped to erode segregation in the South by opposing unjust laws. The development of labor laws and unions also had a number of sit-ins and strikes that were illegal at the time, but advanced the rights of workers and the passage of new legislation.