University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Differences Between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Junior
Ever since the beginning of African slavery in America there has been debate over whether slavery is moral or immoral. Beginning in 1896 black rights leaders began to appear in the U. S. Two of the most influential and famous advocators of black rights were Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm X. Although their goal of equality between all races is the same their approaches to achieving this goal are different. The main differences between the two leaders are that King achieved his goal through peaceful and moving speeches about equality, while Malcolm was a destroyer of those who were of the superior white race.
The main differences in their approaches to discrimination can stem from their different childhoods. King was from a prominent family in the area of Atlanta who had grown up with excellent schooling. King skipped two grades and went to an Ivy League school at the age of 15 and received the finest education throughout his life. Malcolm grew up with no schooling and was virtually unknown before he began to travel around advocating black rights. Malcolm also suffered through tragedies in his life that scarred.
Malcolm’s father abused his mother and she abused her eight children. Then Malcolm’s father was murdered and his mother suffered a breakdown and, as a result, his family was forced to be split up. Their approaches to discrimination were grounded on their childhood which results in the great differences between them. Malcolm had a bitter desire to get back at the world that he felt he had been mistreated by. Luther grew up in a peaceful, loving environment and this showed through his non-violent protest movements.
Beyond their childhood their viewpoints were also influenced by their religions. Martin was a Baptist reverend who reached out to people while he was at his church. His beliefs were in the social gospel. However, King also practiced “personalism. ” Personalism is defined as the theological concept that emphasizes the personal nature of God and importance as human personality as a reflection of that nature. Malcolm believed in the Islamic religion which condemned whites and showed them no mercy.
Malcolm and Martin also followed the example of two different role models. Malcolm was influenced by Elijah Muhammad and his organization, the Nation of Islam. Elijah taught Malcolm that the white man is the “devil” and that blacks are the true rulers of the world. Martin revered Gandhi for his way of seeking patience and non-violence. Gandhi was a famous religious leader who led a non-violent retaliation against British imperialism in India. Gandhi taught Martin that it is good to fight a fight without any physical contact.
Both Malcolm and Martin reflected the viewpoints of their leaders in the way they led their protests. Martin Luther King Junior used non-violent protesting, passive resistance, and “weapons of love” to instruct his followers when fighting for equal rights. His approach can most easily be seen from his famous “I Have a Dream,” speech where he spoke eloquently about his dream for blacks and whites being together with no tensions between them. Martin once quoted, “A riot is the language of the unheard.
Martin means that riots will get you nowhere, if you wish to be heard grab people’s attention through simple, peaceful actions. Malcolm was a segregationist, supporter of segregation, until his pilgrimage to Mecca. Malcolm also was willing to use any means necessary to gain equality for his people. He believed the only way blacks could gain true freedom was through revolution and force. Besides their approaches to achieving equality their effects on the Civil Rights Movement are different. Martin Luther had a positive effect similar to the way he delivered his point.
He changed the perception towards equal freedom by introducing a new viewpoint with his “I have a Dream,” speech. His death also led to the passage of the civil rights legislation in 1968. Most importantly though Martin Luther King Junior gave his people the strength and courage to stand up to their persecutors. Malcolm was murdered similar to King but his death had no effect on the civil rights movement. Instead of a positive effect on the world he encouraged protest and riots and more importantly instilled black pride.