What Are Some Famous Acts of Civil Disobedience in the USA?

Although America has a rich history of civil disobedience stretching back to the birth of the country, among the most famous acts include the arrest of Henry David Thoreau, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1968 protests at the Democratic Convention. In each of these cases, the long-term impact of the civil disobedience was far-reaching and historically important.

Thoreau's arrest for his refusal to pay a poll tax was hardly the first act of civil disobedience in America, but it was one of the most important. The writer spent only a single night in a fairly comfortable jail cell. However, his reflections on the event and what he considered to be the duty of citizens to resist unjust laws were widely read. The influence of Thoreau's writing on civil disobedience has been cited by civil rights leaders in the United States and around the world in the years since.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott began in December 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat at the front of a Montgomery, Alabama municipal bus to white riders. The boycott deprived the city of thousands of dollars in bus fares and brought Martin Luther King, Jr. to prominence in the movement. It led to other similar acts of disobedience that created the impetus for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The suppression of protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention also had far reaching implications. Shown on prime time television, the violent dispersal of thousands occupying Lincoln Park without a permit is credited as having aided the Republican Party and Richard Nixon in the elections that followed.