Mahatma Gandhi is perhaps one of the most revered nonviolent leaders in the world. He led the movement for the independence of India from Great Britain and his peaceful protests have since become the framework for nonviolent civil disobedience around the world. He organized massive boycotts throughout India, including: calling on parents to stop taking their children to public school, telling Indian public officials to stop working for the British government, requesting military members to resign from their positions, and requesting citizens to stop paying taxes and to refuse to buy British products. He also worked to promote peace between Muslims and Hindus.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a famous nonviolent civil rights activist and Baptist minister. He led the peaceful resistance against racial segregation policies in the US during the 1950’s and 1960s. Martin Luther King, Jr. promoted the idea of racial equality and led civil disobedience protests and demonstrations to fight against political injustice. He traveled around the country organizing civil rights protesters and giving speeches. His most famous speech, “I Have a Dream”, highlighted the idea that all people could and should one day be equal as brothers. He gave this speech on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, bringing together more than 200,000 participants.
Bob Marley stood for universal peace and non-violence as he looked to unite people all over the world through his music. He tried to break racial barriers and violence by the use of love and music. He earned this distinction for his courageous work appealing for justice and peace during a time of great political unrest and unprecedented violence in the streets of Kingston, Jamaica. He once performed a show after having been shot the day before saying that when the people he sings against don’t take a break then how could he.
Mairead Maguire co-founded the Community for Peace People, which is an organization that encouraged a peaceful resolution to the troubles in Northern Ireland. Peace rallies were attended by many thousands of people – mostly women, and during this time there was a 70% decrease in the rate of violence. She was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work. She has spent her life since then to bearing witness to oppression and standing in solidarity with people living in conflict, including most in Syria.
Nelson Mandela’s actions, specifically his speeches and nonviolent protests during his lifetime, were impressive and had profound changes all over the world. His whole life he was fighting against apartheid, the white minority in South Africa, and equal rights for all citizens. Mandela spent 28 years in prison for fighting white rule before leading South Africa to multi-racial democracy as the country’s first black president in 1994. Mandela’s peaceful tactics were responsible not only to bring ANC into power but to unite the two races of the country during his rule as president.