Malcolm X vs. Martin Luther King Jr.

Topics: Nonviolence, Martin Luther King, Jr., Black people Pages: 5 (1735 words) Published: October 19, 2008
The Civil Rights Movement symbolized the challenge and opposition to the racial injustices and segregation that had been engrained in American society for hundreds of years. Events that took place in the 1950s and 1960s, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, sit-ins, speeches and numerous protests define this momentous time in United States history. Speeches during this period served as a means to inspire and assemble a specific group of people, for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X it was the black community that needed to rise up in hopes of achieving equal rights and voting rights for the blacks. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were two of the most prominent leaders and orators at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. Although both leaders possessed the same objectives, their outlooks and perspectives differed immensely. The main primary difference focused on their willingness to employ violence to achieve their end goals. While Dr. King suggests a civil disobedient approach in “Give Us The Ballot” and “Pilgrimage to Non Violence,” Malcolm X believed otherwise, expressing his belief that the black community needed to rise up and organize. Malcolm X articulated his view on the necessary use of violence and retaliation in “The Ballot or the Bullet”.

Despite the striking differences of methods between the two civil rights leaders, there were a few similarities between these two leaders. They both believed that blacks suffered from great injustice and prejudice. King felt that all people were affected by the existing injustices that the few were suffering. Malcolm X preferred a more confrontational method of action, but also recognized the fact that blacks had been oppressed for too long. The goals of both men originated from their common racial heritage and history. To raise the issue of social injustice for the world to see and from there force changes was the intent of both men. Malcolm X and Dr. King also shared the opinion that the current political system in the United States needed reform. Dr. King and Malcolm X strived to achieve equality for blacks under the law, more specifically, voting rights, desegregation, and more representation in government and politics. However, both men differed immensely in their tactics and strategies. For Dr. King, the negotiations could be brought about by the persistence of a nonviolent plan where, the oppressed people’s determination would overcome the will of the oppressor in the hearts and minds of the nation. He firmly believed in the principles of Mahatma Gandhi’s method of nonviolence resistance, which had been successful in driving the British out of India. For example, according to King, one of the resisters, or black mans goals is not to humiliate the opponent, (the white man) but to win his friendship and understanding. Dr. King proposed a passive resistance, based on “the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice” (“Pilgrimage to Non Violence” King, 112). He claimed the center of nonviolence is based on the principle of love, or understanding. Dr. King emphasized that the white man should not be held responsible for the minorities and blacks being oppressed. Here is where the two leaders oppose each other. Malcolm X felt social injustice and racism had endured too long, and it was time for a new approach. He said, “I don’t mean go out and get violent; but at the same time you should never be nonviolent unless you run into some nonviolence.” (Malcolm X, 34) Malcolm X did not necessarily want to seek out violence, but under the existing circumstances, he felt that blacks were justified to retaliate violently. Not only did Malcolm X blame the white man for oppressing blacks, but also he blamed the American government and both political parties. Malcolm X felt he had the right to take, not ask, for the rights that blacks naturally deserved.

The underlying principals and causes underpinning Dr. King and Malcolm...

Cited: Martin Luther King, Jr., “Give Us the Ballot—We Will Transform the South” (1957), from A Testament of Hope, Ed. James Melvin Washington,
San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1986
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Pilgrimage to Non Violence” (1958), from The Sixties Papers:
Documents of a Rebellious Decade, Judith Clavir Albert and Stewart Edward Albert, eds., New York: Prager, 1984
Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet” (speech from April 3rd, 1964), from Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements, Ed. George Breitman, New York: Pathfinder, 1990
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