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Assess the Impact Malcolm X Had on the Civil Rights Movement

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Assess the impact Malcolm X had on the Civil Rights Movement

Malcolm X, a civil rights activist, had a significant impact on the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Malcolm X challenged conservative Americans by the Civil Rights Movement exposing discriminatory practices which led to significant changes in what the legal system declared unlawful. Although Malcolm X had a different approach to Martin Luther and produced different results, their end aim was the same. His impact socially, politically and legally is still recognized today and he is commemorated for his constant fight for equality for African Americans.

Malcolm X’s tragic childhood events, certainty influenced his motives for social change. Socially, Malcolm X’s views and approaches were different to the other civil rights activists of that time. Before Malcolm X, most blacks wanted nothing to do with Africa. But he taught them that “You cant hate your origin and not end up hating yourself; you cant hate Africa and not hate yourself.” The response from this was positive and it raised African American cultural consciousness. Despite this, he was cast in the negative light and was seen as an opposer of Martin Luther King Jr. King and other activists refused to appear on the same platform as him. The Nation of Islam only had violent views, and as a result of this, Malcolm X rejected the non violent views of King and advocated for a violent approach. “I don’t even call it violence when it’s self defense; I call it intelligence.” says Malcolm X. The impact of this developed two approaches to Civil Rights. One group following Kings views and the other, a minority following Malcolm X’s views. It was this group which agitated for change through violent means. The white community saw all blacks as violent which negatively impacted on Kings cause. This also divided the black community, at a time were unity was needed. Further to this, Malcolm X advocated for both the establishment of a separate black community, rather than integration, and the use of violence for self defense. An added impact to this was that it heightened the controversy of Malcolm X and his approach, but also hampered any attempt of assimilation. White society retaliated, both on the streets and the media, impacting on societies views on Malcolm X. Ultimately, Malcolm X was pushing for a positive change, but it was perceived by the whites, and some blacks, as negative.

Malcolm X’s social views had a significant impact politically and legally. Malcolm X and other activists all wanted the same end result, but the way they advocated for change, was different. Malcolm X ridiculed Kings “I have a dream” speech saying, “While King was having a dream, the rest of us Negroes are having a nightmare”. There was nothing subtle about Malcolm X’s message and he was not afraid of sharing his views and opinions to all. This approach pushed all sectors of society to question him and themselves. Legally, Malcolm X challenged the civil rights movement and exposed discriminatory practices. Not only did Malcolm X impact the Civil Rights Movement by helping to implement laws, he also made America look at how existing laws were routinely ignored. Malcolm X’s political push to ensure the education of black Americans clearly impacted on both blacks and whites, inspiring them to get an education. Malcolm X advocated both politically and legally for schools to be desegregated, as he states “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”. As a result of his impacts on the legal system, the US Supreme Court in 1954, declared desegregation in public schools unconstitutional. The desegregation of public schools had a large impact on the African American society and through this, the contributions of Malcolm X were seen and he gained credibility.

After his separation from the Nation of Islam in 1964, he declared his independence and developed his cultural and political black nationalist philosophy in a speech titled, “The Ballot or the Bullet.” His break from the NOI was an important turning point as he was free to speak independently and he encouraged blacks to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Further to this, Malcolm X formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity. The purpose of the OAAU was to reconnect Africans Americans with their African heritage, establish economic independence, and promote African American self-determination. It impacted on the members of the OAAU as it gave them a place to speak for themselves and to fight for equality. Although the OAAU fell apart, it became the inspiration for hundreds of "black power" groups that emerged during the next decade.

Even though Malcolm X did not directly initiate any fundamental changes, he questioned the law, created public debate and discussion amongst the black community and politicians, exposed discriminatory acts and pushed for change. He inspired not only American black youth, but also other disadvantaged groups around the world such as the 1965 Freedom Rides in Australia.

However, as a consequence of his impact on the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X was threatened due to his radical ideas and on February 21st, 1965, he was assassinated. His assassination spawned the Black Panther Party, who took Malcolm X’s message of self defense for blacks and translated it into action. They inspired youth and blacks internationally to fight racism and police brutality.

Malcolm X has been dead for 48 years, yet his influence in the African American community is much greater today than during his lifetime. He was an internationalist and revolutionary, who took a courageous stand for all African Americans for gaining equality. He agitated for change and made a significant impact in America socially, politically and pushed for changes in the law. Malcolm X’s impact on the civil rights movement can not be denied and his speeches and his message have stood the test of time.

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