MLK V. Malcolm X

Two faces of Civil Rights

King and X background

Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are highly significant figures to the era of civil rights, and while both are very similar, they are very different as well. They both positively influenced the civil rights movement, but they did so in different manners. King was a pacifist, and did not allow violence under any circumstances, while Malcolm X was a little more prone to violence. Their usage of violence or non-violence is a reflection of what sort of leaders they were to the Civil Rights movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. emerged as a leader before Malcolm X did. Kings first notable act as a Civil Rights leader was that of aiding the Montgomery bus boycotts in the 1950's. Shortly after, he moved on to organize the Southern Christian Leadership conference (which was originally called the Southern Negro Leaders Conference on Transportation and non violent Integration). Later, in 1959, he visits India for a month where he meets the Prime Minister and many of Gandhi's followers. After this, King continues to protest for civil rights in various locations and always clings to his non violent morals. Each protest he leads, he ensures that not one person lifts a finger in defense of themselves, even when the white folks of the south come to beat on them, and the firemen use their high pressure hoses to rip the skin from their bodies. In 1963, the momentous March on Washington takes place where King delivers his most famous "I Have a Dream" speech. In 1968, after a long few years of powerful Civil Rights protests and speeches, Martin Luther King Jr. is shot and killed in Memphis.

Malcolm X emerged as a significant civil rights figure later in the process, as the term Black Power came to be. He was born as Malcolm Little, and as a huge difference between he and King, Malcolm had a difficult childhood. By the time he was 14 years of age, he had already lost both of his parents, one dead and the other in a mental hospital. He then turns to a life of crime after he moves in with his half sister in Boston. He does not become educated until he begins to serve a sentence of eight to ten years in prison by 1947, and is released six years later (earlier than expected). He becomes a minister of the Nation of Islam, and in 1959, he becomes an ambassador for their organization. When the first march on Washington commences, he looks upon it critically. In 1964 he meets with MLK for the first and only time, and the following year he is shot, presumably by members of the Nation of Islam, which he was no longer a part of at the time.

Both of these men pushed for change for the African American people, but they had contrasting ideologies. Malcolm X looked upon the Civil Rights movement and believed it was not achieving what it wanted. He believed that the Black people should not aim for integration and peace with the whites who have discriminated against them and oppressed them for so long. X would much rather have the Black people remain separate from the White people, but in a more elevated position from which they were in. King believed that both white and black people should share a place together in the world, on the same level with the same conditions. He makes this ever more apparent in his "I Have a Dream Speech" when he claims," We will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood"(King). That section of the speech is dedicated to the joining of white and black societies, which is quite the opposite of what Malcolm X wanted. However, the joining of the two is what many had hoped for after that day if they had not already. These things are able to show the biggest difference between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Malcolm X

MLK and X on the Civil Rights Movement

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. had very different opinions on the Civil Rights movement, as has been made apparent. King himself was the greatest supporter of the movement and what it stood for, while Malcolm X believed more in the rights of people as separate groups. Segregation was not so much the problem to X as discrimination was. Despite this, both had similarities in their thoughts on the Civil Rights movement, while they both had many differences.

Martin Luther King Jr. pushed the Civil Rights Movement forward at every turn. He wanted it to succeed as he believed it was the right thing to do. The African American people have no reason to be oppressed, and they have no reason to be separated from white society. Perhaps the best way to find King's approach to civil rights is this line from his famous "I have a dream speech": "one day right here in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as brothers and sisters" (King). This shows his belief that not only white and black society should be equal, but that they should be joined together. Malcolm X had varying opinions on the movement during his life, but his true ideas come after his leave of the Nation of Islam, as that heavily affected his opinions. X once simply stated," I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of color" (Malcolm X). Both X and King wanted the same things in a sense, but X had different ways of looking upon these things and different ways of achieving these things. Both King and X wanted equality for the African American people.

So, both men really wanted the same things. They both had very different thought processes, but aimed for the same goals. Both of them wanted the same thing: "Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were committed to making the black voice heard above the din of fears" (Dyslin). King and X were not the same person, they did not follow the same teachings, they only met once throughout their lives. Towards the end though, both had the same feelings towards the position of the African American people, and they both wanted a change.

Martin Luther King's Last Speech: "I've Been To The Mountaintop"
MALCOLM X: BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY

Ethan C.

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