Martin Luther King Jr. Vs Malcolm X

Two major civil rights activists

Martin and Malcolm's life summary

Born as Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was the middle child of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. Martin had an older sister, Willie Christine, and a younger brother, Alfred Daniel Williams King. The King children grew up in a secure and loving environment. Martin Luther King Sr. fought against racial prejudice, not just because his race suffered, but because he considered racism and segregation to be an affront to God's will. He strongly discouraged any sense of class superiority in his children which left a lasting impression on Martin Jr.

In 1948, Martin Luther King Jr. earned a sociology degree from Morehouse College and attended the liberal Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. During the work on his doctorate, Martin Luther King Jr. met Coretta Scott, an aspiring singer and musician. They were married in June 1953 and had four children, Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott and Bernice. In 1954, while still working on his dissertation, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama. He completed his Ph.D. and was awarded his degree in 1955 when he was only 25 years old.

On December 1, 1955, the night that Rosa Parks was arrested, E.D. Nixon, head of the local NAACP chapter met with Martin Luther King Jr. and other local civil rights leaders to plan a citywide bus boycott. King was elected to lead the boycott because he was young, well-trained with solid family connections and had professional standing. But he was also new to the community and had few enemies, so it was felt he would have strong credibility with the black community. Martin Luther King Jr.'s fresh and skillful rhetoric put a new energy into the civil rights struggle in Alabama. After being defeated in several lower court rulings and suffering large financial losses, the city of Montgomery lifted the law that mandated segregated public transportation.

In January 1957, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and 60 ministers and civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches. They would help conduct non-violent protests to promote civil rights reform. King's participation in the organization gave him a base of operation throughout the South, as well as a national platform.

On August 28, 1963, the historic March on Washington drew more than 200,000 people at the base of the Lincoln Memorial. It was here that King made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, emphasizing his belief that someday all men could be brothers. Many people in cities not experiencing racial tension began to question the nation's Jim Crow laws and the second class treatment of African-American citizens. This resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 authorizing the federal government to enforce desegregation of public accommodations and outlawing discrimination in publicly owned facilities. This also led to Martin Luther King receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for 1964.

On April 4, while standing on a balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel, Martin Luther King Jr. was struck by a sniper's bullet. The shooter, a drifter and former convict named James Earl Ray, was eventually apprehended after a two-month, international manhunt. The killing sparked riots and demonstrations in more than 100 cities across the country. In 1969, Ray pleaded guilty to assassinating King and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He died in prison on April 23, 1998.


Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. Malcolm was the fourth of eight children born to Louise, a homemaker, and Earl Little, a preacher who was also an active member of the local chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and avid supporter of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Since Earl Little was a civil rights activist, the family faced frequent harassment from white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. When Malcolm X was four years old, local Klan members smashed all of the family's windows, causing Earl Little to decide to move the family from Omaha to East Lansing, Michigan.

In 1931, things got much, much worse. Earl Little's dead body was found laid out on the municipal streetcar tracks. Although Malcolm’s father was likely murdered by white supremacists, the police officially ruled his death a suicide, which voided the large life insurance policy he had purchased in order to provide for his family in the event of his death. Malcolm's mother never recovered from the shock and grief of her husband's death. In 1937, she was committed to a mental institution and Malcolm X left home to live with family friends.

In 1939, his English teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and he answered that he wanted to be a lawyer. His teacher shot him down and said that he should plan on carpentry instead. Having been told that there was no point in a black child pursuing education, Malcolm dropped out of school the next year when he was 15.

After quitting school, Malcolm moved to Boston to live with his older half-sister, Ella. She was able to get him a job shining shoes at the Roseland Ballroom. However, out on his own on the streets of Boston, Malcolm became acquainted with the city's criminal underground, and soon began selling drugs. He got another job as kitchen help on the Yankee Clipper train between New York and Boston but fell further into a life of drugs and crime. This phase of Malcolm's life came to a stop in 1946, when he was arrested on charges of larceny and sentenced to ten years in jail.While in prison, Malcolm converted to the Nation of Islam and changed his last name to X when he was released in 1952

Articulate, passionate and a naturally gifted and inspirational orator, Malcolm X exhorted blacks to cast off the shackles of racism "by any means necessary," including violence. "You don't have a peaceful revolution," he said. "You don't have a turn-the-cheek revolution. There's no such thing as a nonviolent revolution." Such militant proposals—a violent revolution to establish an independent black nation—won Malcolm X large numbers of followers as well as many fierce critics. Mainly because of his efforts, the Nation of Islam grew from 400 members in 1952, to 40,000 members by 1960.

In 1963, Malcolm X became deeply saddened when he learned that his hero and mentor had violated many of his own teachings. Muhammad had fathered several children out of wedlock. Malcolm's feelings of betrayal, combined with Muhammad's anger over Malcolm's insensitive comments regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, led Malcolm X to leave the Nation of Islam in 1964.

On the evening of February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, where Malcolm X was about to deliver a speech, three gunmen rushed the stage and shot him 15 times at point blank range. Malcolm X was pronounced dead on arrival at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital shortly thereafter. The three men convicted of the assassination of Malcolm X were all members of the Nation of Islam: Talmadge Hayer, Norman Butler and Thomas Johnson.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Malcolm X

Their approaches to the civil rights movement

Martin Luther King Jr, and Malcolm X's opinions on the subject of civil rights at the time had their similarities and differences. They both believed that the African-Americans in the United States were being treated terribly, and that change needed to happen. This is shown on the website racerelations.about.com, when the author wrote, "Although Martin Luther King Jr was known as a civil rights leader and Malcolm X as a black radical, both men became advocates for oppressed people all over the globe".


Martin Luther King Jr. believed that their goals could only be reached peacefully. While not everyone agreed with him, his methods were successful even though they were a little slow. He said, "Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice". He thoroughly believed that their goals as civil rights activists could be reached in a peaceful manner.


Malcolm X thought that if it was needed, violence could be the way to get what they wanted. He said, "We declare our right on this earth...to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary." By saying this, he fully shows how important it is to be given the rights of a human being in society.

Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have A Dream Speech
Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights Movement
MALCOLM X: WHO TAUGHT YOU TO HATE YOURSELF?
Malcolm X Documentary

Elaine Jennings