Analysis of Malcolm X's "Ballot or Bullet" speech

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Malcolm X Warns, "It Shall Be The Ballot or The Bullet"

The 1960s were a time of battle for change. Frustrated and fed up with the oppression with which they were forced to live, influential people such as Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. started a whirlwind known as the Civil Rights Movement. On Easter Sunday, March 29, 1964, Malcolm X gave a speech warning of "the ballot or the bullet" (3) from the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights, New York. Extending his position to black people living in America, Malcolm X used repetition of words, epistrophe, anaphora, and antithesis to convey his message in a forceful and fascinating way.

Malcolm X spoke to black nationalists as a plea for action against their white oppressors. He made the point that African-Americans were treated as second class citizens: they were denied the constitutional rights that they deserved. Malcolm X also spoke about the "back pay" (2) that white Americans owed them for the slave labor they forced upon the ancestors of the African-Americans. Malcolm X made a call for freedom.

Malcolm X's diction added emphasis to his speech. He used repetition of words frequently throughout his speech. Near the beginning of his speech, Malcolm X said:

The first step for those of us who believe in the philosophy of Black Nationalism is to realize that the problem begins right here. The first problem is right here. We have to elevate our thinking right here first--not just the thinking of a handful, that won't do it. But the thinking of 22 million black people in this country must be elevated. (1)

This statement used repetition of the words "first" and "thinking." It also utilized epistrophe with the phrase "right here." The whole quote can be summed up using the words Malcolm X repeated. His main idea was that African-Americans first had to change their thinking right here. Malcolm X used repetition of words and phrases to highlight the idea expressed in the quote.

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