Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X were two black men who were both after the same thing, a better life for black people. They didn’t want to be treated differently just because of the color of their skin. The difference between the two is how they went about achieving their aims and how their aims differed between the two men.
Martin Luther King had a different upbringing to Malcolm X. He was from a middle-class family, whose name was well established in Atlanta. He was a smart student, who skipped two grades before entering an Ivy League college at the age of 15. He was class valedictorian with an A average.
His home environment was full of dreams and love, where they had strong values which showed a sense of self-worth. Through the upbringing that he had, he adopted an ideology of how black and white people would live together as equals.This was totally different to Malcolm X’s upbringing. He was also a smart individual, but he didn’t have the encouragement that King did. His father was killed when Malcolm was six when the Ku Klux Klan burnt his house. His mother, later, had a break down which meant that his seven siblings and himself were put into foster care. He was not able to pursue a career in Law like he wanted to, even though he was an intelligent child.
He instead, dropped out of school, started taking cocaine and spent time in prison after forming a burglary ring to support his drug addiction. He had suffered violence at home from both of his parents and also from going to an integrated school. He lived in a ghetto and had a rebellious and angry life.
Through his experiences, he wanted to develop the black community, that was independent and free from the dependency of the white people, and to be better than the whites. He was very rebellious and angry and wanted revenge. He used direct action and didn’t oppose violence like King did.King believed in non-violence to achieve his goals. He wanted to gain self-respect, high moral standards, hard work and leadership among the people.
He believed in peaceful protests and going through the legislative process to make changes. It would take time, but he was looking to the future and the long-term effects of his actions and the civil rights movement.Malcolm X had followed the teachings of Elijah Mohammed and the Muslim religion in later life.
It was during his time in prison, where going in, he was an atheist but by the time he came out, he had studied the teachings of the Nation of Islam. When he was realized, he met Elijah Mohammed for the first time in 1952. He became an Islamic minister and preached about ‘black supremacy’ and ‘separatism between blacks and whites’. He thought that equality was impossible because whites had ‘no moral conscious’. He blamed the white people for the terrible conditions that most of the black community had to live in. “The community where you live will get poorer and poorer and the community where you spend your money will get richer” He had wanted to live equally but knew that the only way to do this was to live separately, putting the black people’s money back into the black community.
Martin Luther King made sure that the protests were peaceful. During the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, King made sure that there was no violence. It helped to make them seem less barbaric compared to the violence that the white people showed towards them. It helped to desegregate busses, something that would last and was another step forward for civil rights.The two men where fantastic speakers, and had many great speeches, the most famous being Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. Malcolm X’s speeches were more for the black people in ghettos. He had a great response from them because he knew what they were going through and how they felt. It was the place that he had come from.
All that he preached was from following the teachings of the Nation of Islam.In the ‘It’s the Ballot Or The Bullet’ speech by Malcolm X and the letter from Birmingham City Jail by King, they both identified similar problems. “Those are social issues where the gospel has no concern” from King and “Government that is in a conspiracy to deprive you of your voting rights” from Malcolm X. They both had either the government or the Church, not necessarily against, but were not helping them. Malcolm X said he wanted his campaign to be reciprocal. He would give as good as he got from opposing groups.
Martin Luther King, on the other hand, said, “Are you able to accept the blows without retaliating?” This shows how the two men took opposing approaches to deal with their problems. King had his nonviolent campaign with his three basic steps of 1, collecting data, 2, negotiation, 3, self-purification and 4, direct action, Malcolm X believed indirect forms of action where you were extreme and you gave what you got. King’s direct action consisted of marches and sit-ins where Malcolm X would not be so refined but take charge and fight.The two methods used by each man were opposing ones, but as Malcolm X got to the end of his life, his views began to change. He found out that the man he had looked up to and followed, Elijah Mohammed, had been committing adultery, which was against the religion that he preached.
Malcolm was actually rejected from the Nation of Islam for having too much power. Malcolm then went and traveled and found that the Muslims were color-blind towards one another. When he came back, therefore, he became less extreme and encouraged black people to vote and to join organizations that made them active in their community. He started his own religious establishment, the Muslim Mosque. He believed more with the tactics that King had been using all along through his recent experiences.
Not everything that they wanted was different. They both wanted ‘self-knowledge and respect for one’s history and culture as the basis for unity’ Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were two men, that went about getting their similar goals in different ways. Malcolm X was seen by most as an extremist, while King was a peacemaker. They were both so committed to making things better for black people, that they both died for their cause showing the extent to which they went to, to make the injustice right.