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Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr Essay

The PBS video, “Malcolm and the Civil Rights Movement” is important in showing the varying views of both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. The video makes it well evident that both men were striving for the same end result, which was “defeating white racism and empowering African Americans. However, as the video explains, while both men had the same destination in mind, they both sought different journeys to get there. Through an analysis of the PBS video, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and several passages from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, it can be concluded that while the two men wanted the same thing, they both had different views and beliefs; Malcolm X was angry, bitter and vengeful, while Martin Luther King Jr. was only concerned with fixing the issue at hand. Early in the PBS video, it is explained that while King wished to mend and strengthen a family bond that already existed, Malcolm X viewed himself and black Muslims as an outside party.

This is evident through the public denial that Malcolm X was even an American due to his opposing view of the suggestion of “integration with white America.” (“Malcolm and the Civil Rights Movement”, The American Experience. PBS. Video Transcript) This belief that Malcolm X was completely angry and against white America is aided though a passage in his autobiography coming from page 292 of the fifteenth chapter. In the first provided passage of Malcom X’s autobiography, Malcolm X shows marked bitterness and hatred in his choice of words to describe the situation. This can best be attributed to the quoting of the his words saying “the antebellum white slavemaster even devilishly manipulated his own woman.” This phrasing by Malcolm X speaks volumes to how he views the relationship of the white male to the rest of society. Through the using of the word “devilishly” he is portraying his inner thoughts that the white man is evil and corrupt in his judgments.

Then by using the words and “manipulated” and “own”, Malcolm X is expressing his belief that the white man is power hungry and sees the world as a game for his bemusement and handling. Furthermore by saying “his own woman”, this would suggest that Malcolm X believes that the white slave owner sees himself the master of not only black men but also white females. (Malcolm X, p. 292) To the slave owner, everything but himself is property and assets to be owned and managed. The passage then goes on to explain that Malcolm X strongly holds a general stereotype of slave owners copulating with their slaves to be unquestioned fact about all slave owners. His remarks that the slave owner has conned his wife into letting him procreate with the slaves allows valuable insight into Malcolm X’s thoughts that white male is purely a trickster and untrustworthy.

The final two paragraphs of the first passage provided from The Autobiography of Malcolm X offer perhaps the most profound description of Malcolm X’s beliefs surrounding the relationship between blacks and whites. Through the anecdote of the girl traveling all that way to try and make amends for something that not even herself has been proven guilty of showcases how impenetrable Malcolm X’s beliefs are. While the girl asks Malcolm X if he believes “there are good white people”, Malcolm X explains that only actions can change his thoughts. The girl then offers, “What can I do?” at which Malcolm X responds that there is nothing she can do (Malcolm X, p. 292). This effectively renders the argument that Malcolm X firmly believes that the previous and current disrespectful actions whites have shown blacks are unforgiving. This belief and anger strongly contradicts with the first part of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Martin Luther King Jr. begins his speech with a preface of “let us not wallow in the valley of despair,” which he uses to say that the past does not need to define the feelings of the future. King then addresses that by moving on from the past quarrels, brotherhood can be established and the nation’s creed of “all men are created equal” can be recognized (“Martin Luther King: I Have a Dream” 1963. Speech). Paralleling this theme of the past not defining the future, King speaks of the state of Mississippi’s current and previous mishaps and how it can change as long as the past is left in the past. In the second provided passage of Malcolm X’s autobiography, which is pages 250 and 251 of the fourteenth chapter, it becomes increasingly clear that Malcolm X does not believe that whites and blacks can live happily on the same level.

He then makes a unique distinction between the words segregate and separate. Through a reference to Elijah Mohammed, Malcolm X explains that segregation implies that one side –blacks– are inferior to the other side, while separation suggests that both sides have mutually agreed to part ways and keep distance without one holding significant power or influence over the others. To round out the passage, Malcolm X makes an analogy to a mother and her child stating that unless the baby is separate at birth then both the mother and baby will ultimately die (Malcolm X, p. 250-1). Interestingly, in the third provided passage, which is also found in the fourteenth chapter on pages 260 and 261, Malcolm X makes an interesting comparison of the black people being pets of the white society. This shows that Malcolm X believes that blacks are being trained for the benefit of whites and even mentions the word “brainwashing” to describe how whites have affected blacks.

This passage continues the thought from the second provided passage from earlier in the chapter that blacks should be given the chance to be their own people, away from the influence of white society (Malcolm X, p. 260-1). This analogy suggests that Malcolm X sees the black peoples as independent people that deserve the chance to grow and mature on their own terms. Differing strongly from Malcolm X is King’s speech which showcases his believe that separation is not needed and that he envisions both races coming together as a family. This is illustrated through the line “black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sister and brothers.” With reference to his reverend background, King makes a suggestion that religion can be a unifying factor for the two races and that “the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” (“Martin Luther King: I Have a Dream”, 1963. Speech)

This is in direct contrast to Malcolm X and his autobiography, which puts significant emphasis on his Muslim beliefs being in direct opposition to white society. With the religious tone set, King’s speech then continues to explain how the previous grievances and tragedies of yesterday can be removed for tomorrow beginning with the phrase “with this faith”. This explains that King was looking to mend fences while Malcolm X saw the situation as “us versus everyone” and that everyone was out to victimize them. Finishing his speech, King expands the current situation to encompass the hardships of all other situations in the United States. Through this, King is able to offer that uniting of the black and white races can be a foundation for freedom of all parties in the United States.

This helps to explain the difference between the views King and Malcolm X most clearly. While Malcolm X believes that unless separation is achieved the two races will destroy each other, King believes that if the two races come together then great achievements and progress in freedom for all can be accomplished. The PBS video then explains that Malcolm X did not want the black Muslim people to viewed as “defenseless” and thus, he was opposed to a strategy of non-violence (“Malcolm and the Civil Rights Movement”, The American Experience. PBS. Video Transcript). Because of the differing views on violence, religion was brought into play and Malcolm X insinuated that King was following the white man’s religion and still being controlled by him. While physical violence was avoided by King’s strategy, so was verbal assault as King often avoided criticizing Malcolm X and his comments.

The video then explains that Malcolm X’s unique position then became less dominant in his mind as he felt let down from Elijah Muhammad after the death of Ronald Stokes. At the same time Malcolm X was looking to cause physical pain to the other side, King was making legislative and social gains in his movement (“Malcolm and the Civil Rights Movement”, The American Experience. PBS. Video Transcript). This helps to explain that King largely wanted a fix to the problem, while Malcolm X wanted revenge.

Through an analysis of the PBS video, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and several passages from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, it can be concluded that while the two men wanted the same thing, they both had different views and believes. Malcolm X can be concluded to be angry, bitter and vengeful, with no believe that the relationship between blacks and whites could be salvaged. While differing greatly, Martin Luther King Jr. can be said to be guided by faith, optimistic, future oriented and only concerned with fixing the issue at hand.

Works Cited
1.King, Martin Luther. “Dr. Martin Luther King: I Have a Dream.” March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. 28 Aug. 1963. Speech. 2.”Malcom and the Civil Rights Movement.” The American Experience. PBS. 5 May 2005. Television. Transcript. 3.Malcolm X. “Chapter 14.” The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told by Alex Haley. Alex Haley. New York: Random House, 1964. 250-1, 260-1. Print. 4.Malcolm X. “Chapter 15.” The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told by Alex Haley. Alex Haley. New York: Random House, 1964. 292. Print.


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