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The Civil Rights Movement: Martin King and Malcolm X’s Views Essay


Introduction

The Civil Rights Movement is associated with several brave and committed individuals who changed the American society. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are regarded as two most influential figures within the movement. They became symbols of the struggle for equality and true democratic values. It is noteworthy that King and Malcolm X struggled for the rights of African Americans, but their views, as well as methods used, differed significantly. King focused on the collaboration and unity of all races within the American society while Malcolm X promoted Black supremacy.

Martin Luther King chose peaceful methods, but Malcolm X tended to use violent actions. At that, the views of these prominent individuals became nearer in their later periods. Apart from struggling for the rights of African Americans, both leaders started paying attention to the rights of the poor, as well as issues associated with capitalism and the US imperialism (Howard-Pitney 21). During their late periods, Malcolm X also became more tolerant while Martin Luther King became more militant, which was the result of their activities and the outcomes of their preaching and philosophy, but they never accepted the methods of each other in their entirety.

Major Difference

As has been mentioned above, Martin Luther King promoted nonviolent methods of struggle. The primary reason for the leader’s commitment to nonviolent methods was the source of this philosophy. King stated that he studied various philosophies prior to developing his paradigm of struggle (King, Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, 42). King also stressed that the major concepts he adopted were taken from the “Sermon on the Mount and the Gandhian method of nonviolent resistance” (King, Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, 43). King explained his commitment to these principles saying that “Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method” (King, Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, 43). Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister, so this can be the reason why he remained faithful to the major Biblical principles.

As for Malcolm X, this leader focused on the violent struggle as he believed that no other way could be possible. This worldview could be explained by the hardships Malcolm X had to go through during his childhood and adolescence. In his autobiography, he claimed that there was too much violence in his family as four (out of five) of his uncles and his father were killed (Malcolm X, From Nightmare to Salvation, 48). He also shared his belief, “I, too, will die by violence” (Malcolm X, From Nightmare to Salvation, 48). He and his siblings were taken from their mother, which also contributed to the boy’s going “swiftly downhill” (Malcolm X, From Nightmare to Salvation, 50).

His criminal behavior was a result of the society’s prejudice and unwillingness to accept Malcolm or any other African American as equal. Of course, the time in gangs and prison were also associated with violence and a significant degree of segregation. The leader simply saw no other life or methods. He saw violence as a strategy used by both whites and blacks. This prevalence of violence in his life made Malcolm X focused on violent methods, and his viewpoint on the matter hardly changed.

Becoming Nearer

At the same time, the perspectives of both leaders underwent some slight changes that made them a bit closer later in their lives. One of these points was the collaboration with whites. Malcolm X believed and stressed that African Americans could not collaborate with whites who had always been hostile, immoral and violent. Nevertheless, in the mid-1960s (after his travel to Africa), Malcolm X slightly changed his opinion. First, he mentioned that the collaboration with whites was possible as he met many “white-complexioned Muslims” who did not care about the color of a person’s skin (Malcolm X, Press Conference on Return from Africa, 158). Moreover, the leader advocated an international struggle that could bring the necessary outcomes.

Martin Luther King believed in collaboration with white people, but he became disappointed with such views in the early 1960s. The Baptist minister claimed that he realized that he had been “too optimistic” when he believed that the white moderate or a member “of the oppressor” would understand the needs of the oppressed race (King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, 85).

Moreover, the prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement added that he grew to believe that the major “stumbling block” for achieving African Americans’ goals was not a Ku Klux Klanner but “the white moderate” who tries to maintain order rather than eliminate the injustice (King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, 81). King claimed that white moderates tried to convince African Americans to wait for better times, which could bring the entire struggle to an end. At that, King never stopped stressing that there were various white activists whose contribution was valuable and sometimes crucial.

Ironically, the views on violence also become a bit nearer as Martin Luther King became less focused on nonviolent measures while Malcolm X started speaking about less violent strategies and methods. For instance, King had to admit that completely nonviolent methods could be ineffective in the American society of those days. He admitted that it was “just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends” (King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, 88). At that, Kind still never called for violent measures and insisted on the nonviolent change of the societal order in the United States. Malcolm X, who did not believe in peaceful means of struggle, on the contrary, became less radical.

He started promoting some ideas of a nonviolent revolution that could bring the necessary changes (Malcolm X, America Can Have a Bloodless Revolution, 164). For instance, the Muslim minister pointed out that the United Nations had all the necessary bodies and authority to make “Uncle Sam” change the inhumane norms that existed (Malcolm X, From the Ballot or the Bullet, 173). The leader stressed that African Americans could “bring about a revolution without violence and bloodshed” (Malcolm X, America Can Have a Bloodless Revolution, 164). It is noteworthy that he still noted that violent measures were also effective in many cases due to the wrongs of the society.

Another area where the two leaders started having similar views was the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War and economic issues the nation had to face. Both King and Malcolm X started promoting the ideas that African Americans could become the force that would bring the changes and find effective solutions to such problems as poverty (King, From Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom, 95). Both leaders also believed that African Americans (in collaboration with whites) could stop the war in Vietnam or any other war that had started or could begin in different parts of the world.

Of course, King and Malcolm X focused on the role African Americans played in that process, as well as the hardships their people had to endure. However, they also paid attention to other groups affected by the problems (irrespective of their race, gender, and so on). It is noteworthy that King and Malcolm X draw people’s attention to the flaws in the educational system of the United States. Both leaders emphasized that the system was inadequate and contributed to the further separation within the society, as well as the increase in the number of the unemployed and those who lived below the poverty line (Malcolm X, Black Bodies with White Heads, 127). Those topics were actively discussed by the two leaders in the mid-1960s.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is possible to note that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were two prominent figures within the Civil Rights Movement. They had quite different views on the means of struggle and the collaboration with whites, but these perspectives became nearer in the course of time. Malcolm X became less focused on violent measures while King became more militant. Importantly, both leaders believed that African Americans could become the force that would address such vices of the American society as imperialism, poverty, and injustice. Although both men were assassinated during the peak of their careers, their contribution cannot be overestimated.

The managed to bring people together and make them address the issues that existed in the society. Although the two men were often regarded as two opposites, they started sharing similar views on many important aspects of the struggle and the entire society. It is quite symbolic that both of them were killed, which showed that the American society was about to change and the last acts of violence were also the last attempts to resist the change. The changes became inevitable due to the contributions of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, as well as each person who took part in the movement.

Works Cited

Howard-Pitney, David. “Introduction: Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in the African American Freedom Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.” Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s: A Brief History with Documents, edited by David Howard-Pitney, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, pp. 1-31.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “From Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom, 1966.” Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s: A Brief History with Documents, edited by David Howard-Pitney, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, pp. 90-96.

—. “Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963.” Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s: A Brief History with Documents, edited by David Howard-Pitney, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, pp. 74-90.

—. “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, 1960.” Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s: A Brief History with Documents, edited by David Howard-Pitney, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, pp. 40-46.

Malcolm X. “America Can Have a Bloodless Revolution, 1964.” Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s: A Brief History with Documents, edited by David Howard-Pitney, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, pp. 164-165.

—. “Black Bodies with White Heads! 1965.” Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s: A Brief History with Documents, edited by David Howard-Pitney, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, pp. 127-128.

—. “From Nightmare to Salvation, 1965.” Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s: A Brief History with Documents, edited by David Howard-Pitney, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, pp. 47-57.

—. “From the Ballot or the Bullet, 1964.” Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s: A Brief History with Documents, edited by David Howard-Pitney, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, pp. 165-176.

—. “Press Conference on Return from Africa, 1964.” Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s: A Brief History with Documents, edited by David Howard-Pitney, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, pp. 157-160.

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IvyPanda. (2020, September 14). The Civil Rights Movement: Martin King and Malcolm X's Views. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-civil-rights-movement-martin-king-and-malcolm-xs-views/

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"The Civil Rights Movement: Martin King and Malcolm X's Views." IvyPanda, 14 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-civil-rights-movement-martin-king-and-malcolm-xs-views/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Civil Rights Movement: Martin King and Malcolm X's Views." September 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-civil-rights-movement-martin-king-and-malcolm-xs-views/.


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IvyPanda. "The Civil Rights Movement: Martin King and Malcolm X's Views." September 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-civil-rights-movement-martin-king-and-malcolm-xs-views/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Civil Rights Movement: Martin King and Malcolm X's Views." September 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-civil-rights-movement-martin-king-and-malcolm-xs-views/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Civil Rights Movement: Martin King and Malcolm X's Views'. 14 September.

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