Smithsonian

Rosa Parks: Part D

Role Playing - Nonviolent Resistance

Tell students that as soon as the bus boycott was over, Martin Luther King, Jr., trained Montgomery's African American bus riders in techniques of nonviolent passive resistance so that integration on the buses could be accomplished calmly and without violence. Read them Dr. King's description of the training:

We lined up chairs in front of the altar to resemble a bus. . . . From the audience we selected a dozen or so “actors” and assigned each one a role in a hypothetical situation. One man was the driver and the others were white and Negro passengers. Both groups contained some hostile and some courteous characters. As the audience watched, the actors played out a scene of insult or violence. At the end of each scene the actors returned to the audience and another group took their place; and at the end of each session a general discussion followed. Sometimes the person playing a white man put so much zeal into his performance that he had to be gently reproved from the sidelines. Often a Negro forgot his nonviolent role and struck back with vigor; whenever this happened we worked to rechannel his words and deeds in a nonviolent direction. (King 1958, 163)

Have students participate in a role-playing activity based on King’s description. After they finish the activity, have them discuss what they learned from it. Ask them which of today’s social problems they think might be eased by using such techniques of nonviolent passive resistance.