Compare and Contrast
Compare and Contrast: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
The 1960’s was a tumultuous time in the United States of America. The civil rights movement polarized the citizens of the country. The civil rights movement was responsible for bringing equality to all men and there were two very different but successful men that led this movement. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were both civil rights leaders but they had very different views on how to approach the problem of racism in the country.
Their differences started in their childhood. Malcolm X was raised in Lansing, Michigan but he moved to Boston when he sixteen. Martin Luther King Jr. was geographically different because he was raised in the south in Georgia. Even though their locations were different, their childhoods still had the chance to similar. Both men were born with different names then they are famous for now. Martin Luther King Jr. was born Michael King Jr. and Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little. Their names were both religious based. Michael King changed his name out of respect for the German religious figure Martin Luther King. Malcolm Little changed his name when he converted to Islam. Martin Luther King Sr. was a very important figure in Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood. Because he was father was a Baptist minister, he decided to follow in his footsteps and also become a Baptist minister. Like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X’s father was also a Baptist minister. Though their lives started off similar, Malcolm X’s life changed dramatically when he was six. Malcolm X recalled, “It was morning when we children at home got the word he was dead. I was six…the white Black Legion had finally gotten him”(Autobiography). This greatly impacted the rest of his childhood. His mother had to be institutionalized because she never got over the death of her husband. Malcolm would be forced to separate from the rest of his family and he would later move to Boston.
Their teenage years were significantly different. Martin Luther King Jr. had a very bright future. He excelled in school and entered college when he was only fifteen years old. He was on his way to becoming a prominent successful member of his society. On the other hand, Malcolm X lived a life a drugs and crime. Malcolm X recalled, “I got just a small amount of marijuana, and I some paper to roll up my own sticks…I was able to make enough of them so that, after selling them to musicians I could still have enough profit to be in business”(102). While Martin Luther King Jr. was getting his degree in sociology, Malcolm X was becoming a famous drug dealer among musicians.
Both men were civil rights activists but they had opposing viewpoints on how they could achieve their goals. Martin Luther King Jr. used the techniques that were modeled after Gandhi. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. both preached non-violence. Martin Luther King Jr. organized sit-ins, rallies, and other forms of protest in attempt to his goals. He believed civil disobedience was better than using to violence, to bring attention to his cause. In contrast, Malcolm X was prepared to use violence to get us point across. In his speech titled “the ballot or the bullet”, he describes how 1964 was going to be an “explosive year”. He talked about how black people should not wait around anymore for legislation to happen. Malcolm X believed they should be active in their attempts to become equal. “The Ballot or the Bullet” was one of Malcolm X’s most speeches, similar to Martin Luther King Jr. who was also a great public speaker. Both men were able to persuade people with their words. “I Have A Dream”, one of the most famous speeches of all time was by Martin Luther King Jr. Their charisma made them the faces of the civil rights movement.
Although Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm had very different experiences growing up, they both had the same experience at the end of their life. Both men were assassinated when they were forty years old. Malcolm X was assassinated in Manhattan’s Audubon ballroom while he was giving a speech. Martin Luther king was shot outside the Lorraine motel in Memphis. Both of these murders sparked riots, anger, and mourning throughout the country.