What in your view was the short term significance of Malcolm X?

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Tom Corder

History coursework: Part A

What in your view was the short term significance of Malcolm X?

Malcolm X was much different from any other civil rights activists who were participating in the civil rights movement. His violent policies often led him into trouble, none more so when he was assassinated by members of his own organisation at the age of 39. Before his assassination he was well known for being a strong speaker and for his attempts at raising the awareness of the situation blacks faced in the ghettos of the USA. This led to X becoming a significant figure within the civil rights movement in the short term.

A primary source taken from a quote from The New York Times newspaper states how Malcolm X ‘had the ingredients for leadership’, although his ‘ruthless and fanatical belief in violence’ prevented X from becoming the sort of leader which he had hoped. However the source is from around X’s time and therefore the relevant information has not been yet gathered to perhaps evaluate his leadership skills, it does prove to be a rather accurate take on X’s leadership. Malcolm firstly did take a violent approach within the civil rights movement, and as the source goes on to comment he was then met by ‘a violent end’. Malcolm’s end came at the hands of his own people, which proves that he was perhaps too far involved with the violent side of the civil rights movement, and his actions must have been so radical for his own to assassinate him. Overall it shows that although Malcolm had potential to be a leader in the fight for equality, he failed to do so, due to his ideologies and his policy of violence. I agree with the sources view that Malcolm X did have the leadership potential, but it was clear that Black American’s had wanted to go about reducing racial discrimination with use of a non violent approach, this is shown in X’s rivalry with Martin Luther King who always had fonder support from Black American’s. Therefore he had very little short term significance due to his radical views.

A source that contradicts this would be the opinion of James Farmer from the Congress of Racial Equality. Who felt that X did nothing but ‘verbalize’ and that he didn’t actually take any ‘action’. This is a primary source, and may be bias in that it was taken from around that time. It perhaps doesn’t have the relevant information to back up what it is attempting to say. However the source is important in that it came from James Farmer, who was a fellow civil rights activist and a black American, this is likely to make it bias, as it is likely that Farmer is going to want to be viewed as a more capable civil rights activist than Malcolm X, and gain popularity for himself, and is therefore going to do anything he can to make it seem as though X is doing nothing for the civil rights movement. In terms of what the source is actually commenting upon, it is debatable on whether it is actually true. Although Malcolm X was a fond speaker, for example making speeches on the race problem in America, and the African revolution and the impact it had on the American Negros, it is difficult to think of anything that he physically done during his time as a civil rights activist aside from his work with the Black Panthers, this shows some lack of significance, as if he was significant, surely it would be easy to think of for example an event he has organised, or some action he has taken. Therefore to a certain extent I agree with the source.

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In terms of advancing the civil rights movement a source which comes from a man named Alex Haley is important in showing how significant Malcolm X was in doing this.  Towards the end of the interview Haley says how X had been a speaker outside his church, attempting to persuade people to think as he did, and to think about how Black Americans had been treated unequally and that although people think that they are equal to the white man, they are actually not. This then saw churches to split, and even those who never chose to convert to the ...

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