“To redeem the soul of America”
Tompkins, Hilda Raye
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Adult education is a key component to social movements and leadership is crucial to the success of social movements involving adult education. However, there is a gap in the literature relative to the specific challenges leaders face and how they manage these challenges when leading social movements involving adult education. This study adds to the literature about leadership in social movements involving adult education by examining one of the most widely known and successful movements in the world the civil rights movement (CRM). The purpose of this study was to examine the leadership challenges Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) faced and addressed as he led a nonviolent movement for social change. This dissertation study was conducted using a basic qualitative design. Data was collected from interviews from a purposeful sample of seven participants. Data collected was triangulated through document analysis and member checks. The findings of this study reveal the personal (reluctance to lead and threats), internal organizational (egos and competition from African American leaders and criticism from African American and White leaders) and external movement (resistance to the use of nonviolence and leadership succession plan) challenges MLK faced as leader of the CRM. The findings also reveal the strategies, skills and ideals he used to effectively manage these challenges. He managed the personal challenges by using his personal relationship with God. He managed the internal organizational challenges by turning to humor, explaining decisions in writing and practicing team leadership. He managed the external movement challenges by providing education and training, relating scripture to the nonviolent approach and practicing what he professed and offering leadership development opportunities.