The most recognized civil rights activist is without a doubt Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
He was born on October 2nd, 1869, in Porbandar, India which was then part of the British empire. At the age of eighteen, he sailed to London, England, to study Law. (Biography.com, 2017) Upon his return to India, he struggled as a lawyer and left to South Africa to perform legal services.
He was quickly appalled by the discrimination and racial segregation faced by Indian immigrants at the hands of white British. In June of 1893, during a train trip in South Africa, a white man objected to his presence in the first class railway compartment and had him thrown off the train. This act awoke in Gandhi a deep and relentless devotion to fighting the “deep disease of colour prejudice.” (Wolpert, Stanley, 2001.
) He vowed that day to try, if possible, to root out the disease and suffer a hardship in the process. From that day, Gandhi grew into a giant force for civil rights both in South Africa and India. Gandhi became a leading political figure in the Indian struggle to eliminate segregation. He was arrested and sentenced to jail on several occasion because of his involvement in the protest against the British regime. He once said, “My ambition is no less than to convert the British people through non-violence and thus make them see the wrong they have done to India.” (Biography.com, 2017) In 1942, Gandhi called for the immediate British withdrawal from India. He was immediately arrested along with his wife and other Indian leaders.
Gandhi defied the British empire by going on several non-violent fasting protest. With his health failing, Gandhi was released from jailed 19 months later. At that time, the violence between Hindus and Muslims in India had reach a climax. Gandhi toured various areas of India in an appeal for peace and fasted in an attempt to end the violence.
Some Hindus viewed Gandhi as a traitor for expressing sympathy towards Muslims. (Biography.com, 2017) He was assassinated in 1948 by an extremist Hindu fanatic. During his life and even more after his death, Gandhi’s commitment to nonviolence and his beliefs in simple living has become an important source of hope for oppressed people around the world. He has become one of the most important civil rights activist and has influenced other leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King jr. due to his non-violence philosophy.
(Whipps, Heather, 2008) (Wolpert, Stanley, 2002)