Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925. He was born to a minister father that was a supporter of Black Nationalist Movement leader Marcus Garvey, which resulted in Malcolm experiencing discrimination and racial hatred from an early age. His father was killed and his home burned when Malcolm was young, and Malcolm was jailed in his early twenties after several run-ins with the law following his father’s death. He joined the Nation of Islam in while in prison, and when he was paroled in 1952 he was named the national spokesman for the Nation of Islam.
Malcolm X was an outspoken, articulate, charismatic man that used television, radio, and every other form of media available to convey the Nation’s message. He preached for militant stance in the black community and for equal rights for African Americans, “by any means necessary”. This unwavering stance and militant attitude made some see Malcolm as a threat and he was followed under FBI surveillance until he was assassinated in 1965. He used his charisma and his steadfast beliefs to make the message of the Nation of Islam well known in America and to bring the issue of African American rights to the forefront of American consciousness.
His mission later transformed from fighting for African American rights to fighting for equal human rights for every race, and he enforced the same militant stance with his new message. Mahatma Gandhi was a human rights leader like Malcolm X but he delivered his message in a very different way. Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he was given the name Mahatma because it means, “great soul”. He was born in British-ruled India and practiced law in South Africa which was also ruled by Britain. While in South Africa he began a twenty-year campaign for Indian freedom.
Instead of X’s militant, unmoving approach, Gandhi practiced and taught the principles of non-violent resistance. He believed it was more honourable to be jailed for one’s cause than to create violence. He also practiced fasting as a way of conveying his message of peace and non-violence. He returned to India after twenty years and became the leader of the Indian Nationalist Movement. After India was declared independent in 1947, it was divided into India and Pakistan and the two countries rioted against one another. Gandhi began a fast to encourage the leaders to stop fighting.
After he fasted for five days, the fighting stopped and the countries were at peace until Gandhi was assassinated shortly after. Until his death, Gandhi epitomized his message to, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. He saw no value in violence, and thought that the message of non-violence as a way of protest could bring tolerance, peace and unity more effectively than any violent act could. Despite the change in his place of residence and the political climate of his country he stayed true to his message of peace and unity.
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