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Martin Luther King and Malcolm X: compared and contrasted There are key ideas raised by the lives of these two individuals who were so similar in terms of race, nationality and historical period, yet so different in the way they addressed some major ethical issues of their time. The fundamental ideas cluster around themes of rights, equality, separatism versus communitarianism, as well as social and economic issues and justice. Both men wanted the same thing; civil rights for black people, but chose totally different routes in attempting to achieve this. I will attempt to philosophically analyse why this was the case. The first fundamental factor in forming their views must have been their cultural and family backgrounds, and their personal history. Luther King Jr was born into a. into a middle-class Baptist family, in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. Both his father and grandfather were Baptist preachers who had been actively involved in the civil rights movement. There are stories about how he experienced segregation as a young boy, yet both his parents gave him positive and visionary explanations (1). As a bright student and an able orator, he entered college and decided to become a Christian minister. 'I'm the son of a preacher . . . my grandfather was a preacher, my great-grandfather was a preacher, my only brother is a preacher, my daddy's brother is a preacher, so I didn't have much choice'. ...read more.


Segregated schools often prevented black people from getting an appropriate education. Black children were forced to attend separate schools from white children, often receiving a poorer education as a result of the less developed schools they had to attend. This segregation also encouraged white children to grow up with a view of superiority over blacks. Blacks were not protected from racism, as a white person would be. Many black people were insulted, persecuted, assaulted, even killed due to the lack of protection provision by the state. Martin Luther King's friend the Reverend C.T. Vivian said 'What kind of people are you that in the name of the Law, you destroy Law, in the name of Justice, you destroy Justice?' _____________________________________________________________________(5) Puzzle of Ethics page 135 (6) A Theory of Justice 1971 (7) The People's Century 1900 - 1999 BBC video Martin Luther King in 1966 addressed economic inequality for the black minority in Chicago. 'Now is the time... to fulfil the promises of democracy. Now is the time to get rid of the slums and ghettos of Chicago. Now is the time to make justice a reality, now is the time.' King continues to work with the democratic promises of America. Malcolm X also spoke passionately about inequality to black audiences: 'You're not an American. You're a victim of America' 'I'm not an American, you're not an American, you're one of the two million victims of America. ...read more.


Malcolm X was practical. He approached the struggle from disadvantage with a clear and single-minded aim of the advance of the black population, aggressively challenging and disregarding the interests of the white majority. Only later in his life did he absorb and promote the broader interest of all races. He subsequently formed his own protest group, the Organisation of Afro-American Unity, renouncing his earlier racism against white people. While addressing a rally in 1965, Malcolm X was also assassinated. It was suspected that Black Muslims were responsible for his murder. Malcolm X's separatist view that blacks were superior to whites began to change when he made the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj. He began moving towards a more inclusive view after spending time with Muslims of all races in Mecca. He described this as: 'In all honesty ......I want freedom justice, equality, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all people.' 'We are all brothers truly. People of all colours and races believing in one God and one humanity'(12) ___________________________________________________________________ (11) Martin Luther King The Legacy (ITV 1988) (12) Lees "Malcolm X the video (Guild 1992). Both men had substantial effects upon the American society in which they lived and campaigned, and upon the debates and views of the wider world community. They were both inspirational speakers and persuaders. They both suffered early, violent deaths at the hands of opponents to their views. As with all martyrs, their words will be remembered and their actions and campaigns will be cited as instruments of change for many years to come. Ultimately, their dream was the same, although their methods were not. ...read more.

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