The Ballot or the Bullet by Malcolm X
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. His dream was that one day whites and blacks could live together in equality. King and his rhetoric of idealism are what come to mind for most people when they think about the civil rights movement, but there is another famous civil rights leader who had some very different ideas than King. Malcolm X was the leader of the more radical civil rights movement in the early 1960’s. Perhaps no speech better exemplifies X’s stance on civil rights than the “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech of 1964. This speech outlines X’s opinions on integration, African Americans’ role in government and the community, and how to bring about social change. The world was changing in the 1960’s, and it is important to remember that this change was not always as Dr. King’s rhetoric portrayed it, for every shard of light also casts a shadow. That shadow is Malcolm X and “The Ballot or the Bullet.”
Before anything can be said about “The Ballot or the Bullet”, it is important to examine who Malcolm X was. X was born in 1925. His birth certificate reads Malcolm Little, but he would undergo a rebirth later in his life when he was sent to jail for burglary. While in jail, he completed his education and converted to Islam. This conversion would be the pivotal point in his life X became involved with the Nation of Islam, a rising Islamic group that focused on separatism rather than integration. X worked with the Nation of Islam until March 1964 when he broke away. This break was due to the revelation that the leader of the Nation of Islam had been having relations with six different women. This was in contrast to the teaching of the Nation of Islam, and X felt that he could not follow a false prophet.
Historical Context Now that the person behind “The Ballot or the Bullet” has been expanded upon, it is necessary to