Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

How Important Was Martin Luther King Compared to Malcolm X

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During the 1920’s/1930’s, black Americans faced a huge amount of discrimination from the whites and found if very difficult to achieve civil rights. They were at one stage deprived of the right to vote, not being entitled to the same things as whites, and not going to the same schools as whites. In order for blacks to achieve civil rights they needed someone to follow, they needed a leader. Many black leaders did emerge for the fight of civil rights. Two of the most powerful influential leaders of the twentieth century were Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

These two leaders had different methods and strategies, and very different views towards white people, but fought for the same thing. Martin Luther King was a pacifist, as he strongly disagreed in the use of any violence. This is made clear in source four, which is an example of what King achieved, in a peaceful protest. This source is from the civil rights movement, and it is about the incident of Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks was travelling on a local bus when a white woman asked her to give up her seat, and she refused, this is because she was ‘tired of giving in’ to racism.

She was then arrested later that day. Martin Luther King then decided to lead a boycott of buses, which is when King first step into leading a civil rights movement, raising his profile as a leader, and his importance into the civil rights movement. Malcolm X believed in violence, and criticized King’s beliefs and methods. This is because he felt that King wasn’t doing enough for the black community, and that violence would make it happen faster. In source 14, Malcolm X gives his opinions on violence and non violence, ‘You haven’t got a revelation that doesn’t involve bloodshed.

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And you’re afraid to bleed. I said, you’re afraid to bleed. ’ It could be argued that Malcolm feels that most black people are cowardly and are failing to stand up for themselves. He also believes that violence solves things, which means he wants the blacks to intensify their actions. This is when Malcolm first became a symbol to black people, and became important in the civil rights movement; because he struck a chord among many young who felt they were being treated unjustly by the whites. Martin Luther King used peaceful protests and methods to publicise his views.

An example of the peaceful protest was in Washington in March, 1963, when he delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech which is shown in source 5. This emphasised his importance to the civil rights movement, as it is a well known speech which is still revered today, which emphasises Kings importance to the civil rights movement. A reason for it being well knows is because it was televised, and was broadcast to the whole of America, which means a lot more people heard it as it was more publicised. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. ’ This tells us that King was really pushing equality into the minds of white families. It could be argued that the whites in America were not ready for this huge change in their society, and it questioned the white people of America’s readiness to accept change. Malcolm X used very different methods to King, and often criticized the way he did things.

Malcolm believed that they wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without the use of violence, this is shown in source 13 when Malcolm says, ‘I am for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man’s problems. If we must use violence to get the black man his human rights in this country, then I am all for violence. ’ This indicates that Malcolm X’s method included violence, but this is only because he felt he needed to use it to gain his own human rights, which blacks were lacking terribly.

It could be argued that white people were scared of black people to an extent, as Malcolm X’s followers would use violence towards them. Again, this illustrates him importance in the civil rights movement. Good examples of some of Martin Luther King’s successes is the previously discussed, ‘Montgomery Bus Boycott’ and the ‘I have a dream speech’. Another source that also gives evidence of his importance and success is source 11. This source is a graph on black Americans being registered to vote from the 1940’s – 1970’s. It is a line graph, with a positive correlation, with King’s actions, showing his success in the south.

This tells us that King was making a huge impact on society, prolonging his importance. The civil rights act took place between 1964-1968, and was supported by the president at the time, Lyndon Johnson. This is shown in source 15 where it says, “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, service facilities and privileges, advantages, and accommodations…without discrimination or segregation no the ground or face, colour, religion, or national origin” This indicates that the civil rights act was improving the lives of black people, regardless of how people judged them.

This is a huge importance as Martin Luther King made a huge impact on the Civil Rights Movement. An example of Malcolm X’s successes would be him giving a voice to the ghettos in the in New York City. This is shown in source 16, ‘a high percentage of New York City’s black people responded to what I said, including a great many who would not publicly say so. ’ This shows us that while King was in the south, Malcolm X was in the north, giving his own views, and people were listening to him, and doing what he told them to - whether they admitted it or not.

There is more evidence of this is the same source where Malcolm says, ‘‘time and time again when I spoke in street rallies, I would draw ten and twelve times as many people as most other so-called ‘negro leaders’’ This suggests that although other negro leaders were giving their views, the people didn’t respect theirs as much as Malcolm’s. It could be argued that because of Malcolm’s past, (including his home being burnt down, armed robbery charges, and a 6 ? year prison sentence), he had more experiences, and therefore more empathy than the other leaders with the dissatisfied youth of New York.

This meant that the young black generation made more of a connection with Malcolm than the others, which means he was becoming more important. An example of Martin Luther King’s failures would be ‘The Freedom Ride’ in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. The freedom ride was a failure, because of the use of violence which occurred. The plan of the freedom ride was just to ride, and cause a commotion for the population of Birmingham. However, in source 8, it shows a picture of fire hoses being used against protesters on the street. The water pressure was so powerful that it could knock bricks out of walls.

This was the white power structures reaction to the freedom ride, demonstrating where the power lay. This source indicates the amount of violence that was used during this ‘peaceful’ protest, thus making it one of King’s failures. Therefore it’s important because although he had his failures he still had a large group of followers that stood by him, and kept the fight for equal rights alive. Malcolm X was considered irresponsible and negative. He criticized Martin Luther King’s methods, and he never established any organizations or events himself.

This is evident as there are no sources given to support this, and there is no evidence of this in our research. It could be argued that he didn’t have any ideas of his own, and that he just followed other people’s ideas, such as: Marcus Garvey. It is suggested that Malcolm got his ideas from Marcus Garvey as Malcolm’s father was involved in his organization ‘The Universal Negro Improvement Association’ which means Malcolm was brought up in that environment from a young age. This not only means that Malcolm was inspired by Garvey, but could be argued that he spoke to young people about his ideas, but claiming them to be his own.

It could be argued that this is one of his failures as he wasn’t thinking from his own perspective, but using other peoples. Martin Luther King had different ways of leading his supporters, in comparison to Malcolm X. As discussed before, King used peaceful protests and methods. It could be argued that this is how King got his followers, and why people thought King was the best civil rights leader to follow at the time. King was a leader of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) which was a civil rights organization against racial segregation.

King was known as ‘the voice’ of the organization. The SCLC wanted ‘absolute and immediate freedom and equality… right here in this land today’ which is why they organized so many different events (e. g. Montgomery bus boycott, ect. ) It could be argued that King had such a large group of followers, because he was a member of this group, and it is what got him known. This played an important part in King’s life, as not only did his leadership inspire people, but his leadership gave results. Malcolm X was a very different leader to Martin Luther King.

This is because he believed in violence, and using force towards people. Malcolm was ‘suspicious’ of whites, and was willing to use ‘any means necessary’ to achieve quality. Malcolm usually gave speeches to ‘the ghettos’ of New York, which is where a lot of young black men and woman lived. Malcolm’s views soon spread and this is when a political party called ‘The black panthers’ was formed. The black panthers were feared by civilians. This is made clear in source 18 where it says, ‘This black panther is a vicious animal as you know… it can destroy everything that’s before him. This indicated that the black panthers are a strong group, that aren’t to be messed with. The black panthers used weapons, and there were around 2000 members, this could be argued that the black panthers were some sort of ‘small army’ that intimidated many people. They promoted black people as being stronger and better that white people, and that ‘any this is necessary’ in order to become superior. Evidently, this is a very different viewpoint compared to Martin Luther Kings, which questioned his motives, and if he was doing enough.

This is very important as the black panthers were created due to Malcolm X and his fight for ‘Black Power’. However, the ‘Black Panthers’ made Malcolm X look like an extremist, which is important as it could be argued Malcolm lost followers from this. In conclusion, I feel that Martin Luther King is more important that Malcolm X, to an extent. I feel King has made more progress that Malcolm X; this is because I feel he had more impact on the civil rights movement. Although Malcolm spoke for the youths living on the streets of New York, King broadcast his message throughout America as it was televised.

King was also involved in peaceful protests and organizations which generated all over the south of America, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott or The Washington March. However, I feel that Malcolm X didn’t get the chance to prove himself to be a big part of the Civil rights movement, this is because he spent a lot of time criticizing King’s methods, and his way of doing things, instead of combining their methods together, which would be argued would have had more of an impact of the Civil Rights Movement earlier.

Malcolm then travelled around the world to learn about other black cultures. When he came back he had a different perspective on King’s views and opinions, but shortly after his return he was assassinated by members of the Black Muslim movement. This deprived Malcolm and Martin combining their ideas together and becoming a stronger union.

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