The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 was a watershed moment in American history, and specifically in the civil rights movement. After his assassination, the civil rights movement clearly changed. While Dr. King argued for a peaceful and non-violent movement, those who came after his death were more militant in nature. As a result, the civil rights movement after Dr. King clearly did not reflect his values as a civil rights leader.
The civil rights movement of the 1950s and early 1960s reflected the concept of civil disobedience. This was the same method used by Gandhi in India. The idea of passive resistance was expressed in the work Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau in the 19th Century. Dr. King and the early leaders of the movement clearly followed these ideals. They engaged in bus boycotts and sit-ins at counters reserved only for white patrons. Rosa Parks is the classic example of passive resistance. She merely refused to give up her seat on a bus. She did not engage in any activities of a violent nature. This peaceful idea of resistance clearly defined the early civil rights movement and the ideals of Dr. King.
However, after the death of Dr. King, the movement changed. It became more militant in nature. This is best exemplified by the black militant group, the Black Panthers. The group began in 1966, but clearly took hold of the movement after the death of Dr. King. The Black Panthers argued for revolution, and a violent revolution. They practiced armed resistance and carried guns. They also argued for traditional gender roles with the men clearly in power. This was against the ideals of Dr. King. The movement was very popular during the late 1960s and the 1970s. The image of the group was traditionally men in military garb carrying assault rifles. This is in great opposition to the passive resistance espoused by Dr. King.