In the history of the American civil rights movement, two seminal figures emerge: that of the peaceful and nonviolent Martin Luther King, Jr., and the revolutionary and radical Malcolm X. From these two contrasting images, America did not know how exactly to classify the movement. On one hand, Malcolm X preached independence and a "by any means necessary" approach to achieving equality in America. And on the other, King preached a nonviolent, disobedient philosophy similar to that of Gandhi in the achievement of Indian independence earlier in the century. While most students are familiar with King as a civil rights leader, most are equally uninformed about the impact of Malcolm X in the African-American struggle for equality and freedom. And while there is much to learn from the two contrasting philosophies and approaches to change of each man, there are common threads that unite them: namely, a combined religiosity with political leadership that morphed into a demand for social and economic equality. Despite their differences, King and Malcolm X represented the same cause, and with the achievement of the movement, left a similar legacy to generations of Americans seeking change in their own time. However, from a comparative perspective, one cannot imagine a civil rights movement without the tactics King favored, or a successful movement characterized by the kind of violence and hatred advocated by Malcolm X. When one is asked to think of a comparison between two alternatives and which of the alternatives is "better", one ought to imagine which alternative would produce the better outcome. A better outcome in any struggle for political change is one not characterized by widespread violence. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s childhood and young adulthood were exemplified by his work within the system, achieving prosperity through education and thinking, not through the violent struggle for existence like in the case of Malcolm X. In King's "I Have a Dream" speech, he...
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