Examine the Beliefs of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Comment on the Differences Between Them.

Topics: Martin Luther King, Jr., African American, Malcolm X Pages: 9 (3304 words) Published: April 23, 2007
On 21st February, 1965, one of the most influential civil right fighters was shot. This was Malcolm X. Another civil rights leader, Martin Luther King sent a telegram to Betty Shabazz, Malcolm's wife with his commiserations: "While we did not always see eye to eye on methods to solve the race problem, I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had a great ability to put his finger on the existence and root of the problem. He was an eloquent spokesman for his point of view and no one can honestly doubt that Malcolm had a great concern for the problems that we face as a race." Three years later on 4th April, 1968, Martin Luther King Junior was also fatally shot. At the time of these deaths President Johnson was in power. His response to the tragedy of Martin Luther King's death was: "The heart of America grieves today. A leader of his people -- a teacher of all people -- has fallen. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been struck down by the violence against which he preached and worked." These two inspirational leaders were fighting for the same cause; equal rights for black and white Americans. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X had very different beliefs and tangible differences in the actions of their followers in how to achieve equal rights. Martin Luther King was fighting for a ‘colour-blind' society where people would be judged and valued on their skills and characters rather than the colour of their skin:

"…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…I have a dream that one day little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers."

Malcolm X, on the other hand, was fighting in favour for a ‘black power,' instead of integration. He ridiculed civil rights campaigners such as Martin Luther King who were fighting for integration:

"No sane black man really wants integration! No sane white man really wants integration …"

Malcolm X was so deeply opposed to the non-violent protest that King advocated that in November 1963, during a speech Malcolm X mocked the concept that Afro-American people could achieve civil rights through non-violent protest. He stated that: "The only revolution in which the goal loves your enemy is the Negro revolution. Revolution is bloody, revolution is hostile, revolution is no compromise, and revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in the way."

King believed the only way to achieve integration was using the idea of non-violent protest. This stemmed from his childhood; King's father had been a pastor at a Baptist church and believed that his children needed to be prepared for the problems they would face in life and believed that they had to learn to suffer. He was heard to say to Martin Luther King Jr:

"I'm going to beat your butt, until I make something out of you."

This caused King to believe non-violence was the way to go as he rebelled against his father at fifteen , when he started to attend Morehouse College where learnt of a world beyond his father and the church. The idea of non-violence also originated from King's religion as a Black American. King believed in the teachings of the New Testament and of Jesus. He paid careful attention to Jesus' words in the Gospel of Matthew:

"If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

King was also inspired by the teachings and protests of Mohandas Gandhi, who through non-violence and the teachings of many different religions, had set India free from British rule. King realised this idea of civil disobedience wasn't just a theory but could work in practise if the people were willing to ‘fight', like in India during the Salt March where many were injured and even killed fighting for independence during a campaign of civil disobedience. Gandhi said:


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