This chapter shows that the decade prior to the start of the American revolutionary war in 1775, civil resistance effectively delegitimized and crippled British colonial rule, built economic, social and political parallel institutions that established nascent autonomous society and government structures, shaped American national identity separate from the colonial masters, and led to de facto independence of the American territories well before the outbreak of hostilities. Despite these achievements, the civilian-led nonviolent revolution to successfully free the colonies from British rule is generally ignored or forgotten. Indeed, the memorialized and glorified violent counterpart defines what people commonly understand as the “American Revolution.”
Prevailing interpretations of nineteenth-century Cuban history eulogize guerrilla-style violence and fault nonviolent civilian efforts for undermining the national quest for independence. However, a detailed study of Cuban struggles for self-determination shows that at the core of the national cause lay nonviolent strategies and actions led by civilian-based political and civic movements. These were defiant struggles to oppose colonialist restrictions and abuses, build national consensus among popular groups, and achieve full constitutional rights and political autonomy. Through educational and journalistic efforts, as well as civil society organizing, nonviolent forms of action contributed to far-reaching reforms. Yet, destructive internal wars, triggered by separatist violence, and looming dangers of foreign intervention, seriously challenged nonviolent activities. Nonetheless, civil resistance managed to build the cornerstones of a post-independence republican democracy and civil society.