Malcolm X: Historical Perceptions

Topics: Malcolm X, African American, Martin Luther King, Jr. Pages: 10 (3245 words) Published: October 29, 2005

The impetus for the development for this major work arose from the varied and largely, colorful interpretations of Malcolm X. The differences seem to have arisen from scholars and historians use and understanding of many different and varied sources and most important, their own perspective of the events as they unfolded. How historians approached Malcolm X is of paramount importance to future historians and more importantly, to the study of history. Principally, these differences of thought and perspective are greatly determined by the writer's context, which in turn is at the core of the focus question, concerning the historiographical issue whether each generation writes the same history in a new way. Furthermore the purpose of this thesis is, not only, to show whether each generation does write the same history in a new way, but whether through this process the growth of history is not stunted or hindered but allows future accounts to draw on past sources and derive new conclusions. The constitution of this essay will support this aim by discussing a number of scholars and historians – Edward Woods, James Elridge and Jonathan Kingsley - through showing the differing perspectives.

History is a subject that will remain constant even if we were, by some remarkable turn of fate, to fall short of events to appreciate. The previous century alone will remain of indisputable value to historians for the simple reason that there will always be new interpretations of historical events from every generation, and within each generation from remarkably different individuals with varying contexts. Due to this wonderful circumstance, a variety of intriguing perspectives emerge and spurs further an even greater quest for the truth.

The statement ‘each generation writes the same history in a new and different way' derives great meaning in relation to the figure of Malcolm X due to the myriad of perspectives that have been based on his person and in turn, the multitude of primary source information that exists from the movement and figure of Malcolm X from speeches, interviews, pamphlets to books that illustrate a groundswell of information about the controversial figure.

The flowering of the Civil Rights Movement, a movement for allowing greater equilibrium for disadvantaged racial groups in the United States of America during the decades of the 1950s and 1960s enabled the "forging" of the controversial figure of Malcolm X. It is for this reason that Malcolm X is of increasing controversial importance. For although this period was of great importance in allowing greater self-determination to African-Americans and other disenfranchised racial groups, it was, to a certain extent, over-shadowed by the events of the Cold War and the Vietnam War at that particular time, however, in recent years as the "History from Below" school of history becomes vogue and as the post-modern movement asserts its influence over the study of history there has been a greater interest in the role and influence that Malcolm X had upon empowering African-Americans and "disturbing" the social fabric of America.

As can be expected, American society underwent massive changes and influences during the second half of the twentieth century. On one side there was the lingering suspicion of radicalism, equating any non-conformist attitude to "communist", "Red" or "un-American" activities, that ran rife throughout much of bourgeois and upper class America representing a conservative analogy that was firmly rooted in American society, and on the other, there was the kick-starting of a "leftist" revolution that created ripples throughout American society through the influence of "beatniks" of the 1950s and later, the "hippies" sub-cultures of the 1960s, who advocated principles that were in marked contrast to their more conservative elders. ‘These two perspectives, according to the historian Carson Clayborne, divided the nation down social, cultural...

Bibliography: 23. Woods, Edward, The History of the American Civil Rights Movement, Dell, 1972
24. Young, Andrew An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America, Harper-Collins, New York, 1996
Race, Desegregation and the American Way (1973)
A Nation of Inequality (1977)
The historian James Elridge analyses the contextual causes that led Malcolm X into advocating ‘Black Nationalism ', rather than following a dual approach to analysimg Malcolm X
The Ghetto Uprisings (1999)
The historian Jonathan Kingsley analyses the ways in which the dual facets of Malcolm X 's character is received in contemporary American society and history in the 1990s
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