Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X are seen as unprecedented heroes of the Civil Rights movement. They relentlessly campaigned for equality between blacks and whites. Through their powerful leadership and strategic rhetoric they became Messiah like figures and generated a huge following throughout the United States and the rest of the world. Although the rhetoric of Martin and Malcom had an enormous impact on the progress of the civil rights movement, we should not romanticize these men. Despite the positive change they brought to the civil rights movement each had their limitations, which came in the form of prejudices. Both Martin and Malcolm advocated for violence against whites and had sexist views on women. This essay will argue that although each mans prejudicial views changed over the course of their work, these changes were minor when compared to two earlier, prominent black advocates for women’s rights, Freidrick Douglass and W.E.B Du Bois.
Although Martin and Malcolm’s accomplishments were great, it is important to remember that they were humans. Like all humans, they had their strengths and weaknesses. To focus on their weaknesses does not take away from their strengths, but on the contrary, allows us to view these men in a larger context as human beings, human beings who were fundamentally no different than ourselves. Seeing them as human beings we are encouraged to take up the cause of freedom where they left off, building on their strengths and avoiding their weaknesses. We today can remain faithful to the spirit of their leadership only if we are willing to explore their limitations to understand them better, and in turn realize the freedom for which they died. (Cone, 272-273)
One of Martin and Malcolm’s most glaring limitations were their views on women. They expected their wives, Coretta and Betty, to stay at home and raise their children while they worked for the liberation of African-Americans. This sexism hindered greatly the...
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