Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X

Two great men compared

Their Background

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. His birth name was Michael Luther King, just like his father, who was a reverend and minister of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Like his father, he would change his name to Martin Luther King, in honor of the German Protestant reformer Martin Luther. He grew up in a secure and loving environment. However, no matter how hard his parents tried to shield him from racism, it inevitably creeped into his life.

In his adolescent years, he struggled greatly with his faith. He questioned religion in general and would often become uncomfortable with emotion displays of faith. However, his faith would be renewed after taking a theology class in his Junior year of college. As a student, King did extraordinary. He skipped the ninth and eleventh grades, going to Morehouse College when he was 15 years old. After the renewal of his faith he decided that we wanted a career in ministry.

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska to Louise and Earl Little. He was the fourth of eight children. His father was a civil rights activist, and because of that the little family received constant harassment by white supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. It got so bad that when Malcolm was four his family was forced to move to East Lansing, Michigan. But it was worse in Lansing, as his house was burned to the ground and his father murdered by the white groups.

Malcolm excelled remarkably in Junior High School, was well liked by his classmtes, and even elected class president. However, when he told a teacher that he wanted to be a lawyer and they said that he needed to be realistic, he turned around He would drop out of school the following year, at age 15. Malcolm then fell deep into drugs and drug dealing, and even became a pimp. He would be arrested in 1946. While in jail he converted to Islam, and changed his name to Malcolm X

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Thier Approaches

Martin Luther King Jr.'s approach to the Civil Rights Movement was that of a passivist. He believed that the road to freedom and equality was to be tread in a nonviolent way. He urged his followers and supporters to turn the other cheek, and to use their actions and their voices instead of their strength and weapons. As described in this quote, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." This quote says that the way people are treated will not change if they treat their oppressors the same way. It says that only the opposite of something can drive out any existing thing, especially if it is an emotion.

Malcolm X's approach to Civil Rights was much different. He believed that they way equality was to be achieved was by complete segregation. He believed that equality was to be achieved by standing up and fighting back, as opposed to King's nonviolent approach. His beliefs are shown through this quote, "Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." Malcolm X explains that people should be good and respectful to each other, but that when someone violates another or is violent, that the other person must stand up for himself and show them that that is not right by fighting back. However, towards the end of his life, after converting to True Islam, he believed that all should be equal, not just blacks and whites.

While I believe that Malcolm X's original beliefs had faster results, I think that Martin Luther King Jr.'s approach was a better one. I think this because he urged people to love one another, no matter what they did to you. He showed people that when you are simply nice to others it can open doors that are still years in the making. While it is a longer struggle and a much more narrow road to travel, it ultimately leads to a better and longer lasting results, especially when dealing with the Civil Rights. Despite these two great men having much different approaches, one thing remains similar between the two of them, "Many times they were similar or even identical in philosophy" (Curtis Bunn). Although they had different approaches, their goals were ultimately the same; equality and freedom.
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