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Malcolm X and Martin Luther King: Compared and Contrasted.

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Malcolm X and Martin Luther King: Compared and Contrasted. Two black males living in America at a time when black people were oppressed and considered second class citizens, neither Martin Luther King nor Malcolm X lived to see their dreams realised. Although their goals were the same their methods were drastically different. "I have a dream" was a speech delivered by Martin Luther King on the 28 August 1963, "The Ballot or the Bullet" was a passionate speech put forward by Malcolm X on the 12 April 1964. Both speeches were given within a year of each other and clearly convey a different message, a message however which worked towards the same goal of full civil rights for black Americans. Their backgrounds were in some ways very similar but at times were very different. Both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were born into large black families and both came to maturity in the middle of the twentieth century. The similarities do not end here as both their fathers were preachers and civil rights activists who influenced their sons greatly. Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little, the son of a Preacher from Georgia who had moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 1923 with his three small children. In 1924 Malcolm's mother (who was pregnant with Malcolm) was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan after Earl Little had stirred up trouble within the black community, with the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association) preaching his idea "back to Africa". In 1926 the Little family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta on 15 January 1929 six years after Malcolm Little. He was the grandson of the Rev. A.D Williams, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church and a founder of Atlanta's NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) chapter, and the son of Martin Luther King, Sr who succeeded Williams as Ebenezer's pastor. ...read more.


In the two years from this date King toured India to develop his understanding of the Gandhian movement in which civil rights could be advanced using peaceful protests. At first glance King and X's targets appeared to be the same which was to free black people from oppression by white society. In fact this is not the case. Martin Luther King did want to free the African-Americans from oppression whereas Malcolm X's view was constantly developing and although it was always focused on black oppression it was not exclusively a problem of black people in America but black people everywhere. King was not the only person who travelled around this time; in 1959 Malcolm X travelled to the United Arab Republic, Sudan and Nigeria. Malcolm X spoke at a meeting of the African Freedom Day Rally which was sponsored by the United African Nationalist Movement on the 15 April. Soon after on the 27 May Malcolm X was issued with a passport and eight days later flew to Holland. From Holland Malcolm travelled to Egypt, Mecca, Iran, Syria, and Ghana as Elijah Muhammad's ambassador. However after this trip X stated he grew ill and was unable to make the pilgrimage to Mecca which was a disappointment to him. The publicity generated by these trips to Africa, the Middle East and India showed the similarity in the methods they used for getting their different views across to the public. However these trips were also very important for both of them to formulate their views and policies which they were later to expand upon in the USA. Martin Luther King wanted to appeal to a broad range of supporters of whatever colour or creed. In one of his first speeches in the North since the beginning of the boycott, King addressed an enthusiastic capacity crowd of 2,500 at Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn. Sponsored by the Brooklyn chapter of the National Association of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, the 25 March mass meeting featured brief remarks by a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, and the president of the City Council. ...read more.


Malcolm's ideology shifted when he left the Nation of Islam in 1964 to obtain his goal of equal rights by using a unified, coalition-oriented struggle for black advancement. While King and Malcolm continued to be at odds over the role of violence and non-violence, Malcolm met with other civil rights organisations in the South and repeatedly tried to work with King. Although Martin Luther King and Malcolm X never worked together, Malcolm's ideology directly influenced the southern civil rights movement after his assassination in 1965 with the emergence of Black Power. King's effectiveness was not only hindered by divisions among the black leadership, but also by the increasing resistance he encountered from national political leaders. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's extensive efforts to undermine King's leadership were intensified during 1967 as urban racial violence escalated, and King's public criticism of U.S. intervention in the Vietnam War led to strained relations with Lyndon Johnson's administration. In late 1967, King initiated a Poor People's Campaign designed to confront economic problems that had not been addressed by earlier civil rights reforms. The following year, while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, he delivered his final address "I've been to the mountain top." The next day, 4 April 1968, King was assassinated. King's renown has continued to grow since he became Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1963, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and his speech "I have a dream" was nominated the greatest speech of the twentieth Century by the Guardian. This reveals that apart from a longer life span Malcolm X did not achieve as much as did King in his shorter life but did protest equally as hard if not harder for civil rights. However it was King's ability to focus on important issues that led King to success. Malcolm seems to have lacked this focus throughout his life and only gained the fame that King did well after his death when he was recalled as one of the founding fathers of the militant organisation, Black Power. ...read more.

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