This year marks the bicentennial of the birth of American transcendentalist, essayist, poet, philosopher and tax resister Henry David Thoreau, most famous for his 1854 work Walden. Thoreau is also revered for his “Essay on Civil Disobedience,” a probing examination of the moral duty of the individual to nonviolently oppose the injustice of the state. On Thursday, Oct. 26, the Mercyhurst History Department and the Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics and Society will present a panel discussion examining Thoreau’s essay and the exercise of nonviolence in the context of larger historic struggles for social, economic and environmental justice in America. It’s titled “To Stop the Machine: Dissent, Nonviolence, and the Spirit of Henry David Thoreau.”
One of the featured voices on the panel is former Edinboro University Professor Dr. James Young, author of Union Power: The United Electrical Workers in Erie, Pennsylvania. Dr. Young will discuss the courageous nonviolent struggle of local electrical workers to defend their union, and ultimately the First Amendment and industrial democracy itself, in the face of withering attacks during the repressive era of McCarthyism. Other panelists will address the application of Thoreau’s principles of civil disobedience in the civil rights movement, as well as the contemporary struggle to confront the climate crisis.
The event runs from 7 to 9 p.m. in Mercy Heritage Room. It is free and open to the public and light refreshments will be served after the presentation.