Comparison Of Martin Luther King Jr And

Comparison Of Martin Luther King, Jr And Malcom X Essay, Research Paper

Comparison of Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcom X

Essay submitted by Twyla Lomen

They were black men who had a dream, but never lived to see it fulfilled. One was a

man who spoke out to all humanity, but the world was not yet ready for his peaceful

words. “I have a dream, a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the

true meaning of its creed… that all men are created equal.” (Martin Luther King) The

other, a man who spoke of a violent revolution, which would bring about radical change

for the black race. “Anything you can think of that you want to change right now, the

only way you can do it is with a ballot or a bullet. And if you’re not ready to get

involved with either one of those, you are satisfied with the status quo. That means

we’ll have to change you.” (Malcom X) While Martin Luther King promoted non-violence,

civil rights, and the end to racial segregation, a man of the name of Malcom X dreamed

of a separate nation.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was the conscience of his generation. A Southerner, a black

man, he gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could

bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to free all people from the

bondage of separation and injustice, he wrung his eloquent statement of what America

could be. (Ansboro, pg.1) An American clergyman and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he

was one of the principle leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement and a prominent

advocate of nonviolent protest. King’s challenges to segregation and racial

discrimination in the 1950’s and 1960’s, helped convince many white Americans to

support the cause of civil rights in the United States. After his assassination in 1968,

King became the symbol of protest in the struggle for racial justice. (”King, Martin

Luther, Jr.,” pg. 1)

In 1964, Malcom X founded an organization called “The Muslim Mosque, Inc. In an

interview conducted by A.B. Spellman on March 19, 1964, Malcom speaks of his goals

for this organization. “The Muslim Mosque, Inc. will have as its religious base the religion

of Islam, which will be designed to propagate the moral reformations necesary to up the

level of the so-called Negro community by eliminating the vices and other evils that

destroy the moral fiber of the community. But the political philosophy of the Muslim

Mosque will be black nationalism, as well as the social and economic philosophies. We

still believe in the Honorable Elijah Muhammand’s solution as complete separation. The

22 million so-called Negroes should be separated completely from America and should be

permitted to go back home to our native African homeland.” (Breitmaned, pgs. 5-6)

Perhaps the key to these two African-Americans leaders opposing goals lay within their

very different pasts. Malcom X was born in Omaha as Malcom Little. Malcom’s faith, a

Baptist minister was an outspoken follower of Marcus Garvey, the black nationalist

leader of the 1920’s. The family moved to Lansing, Michigan, and when Malcom was six

years old, his father was murdered after receiving threats from the Ku Klux Klan.

Malcom’s mother suffered a nervous breakdown and her eight children were taken by

the welfare department. Malcom was sent first to a foster home and then to a reform

school. After 8th grade, Malcom moved to Boston where he worked various jobs and

eventually became involved in criminal activity. (Malcom X, pg.1)

In 1946, he was sentenced to prison for burglary. While in prison, Malcom became

invested in the teachings of Elijah Muhammed, the leader of the black Muslims also

called the Nation of Islam. Malcom spent his time in jail educating himself and learning

more about the black Muslims, who advocated racial separation. When Malcom was

released in 1952, he joined a black Muslim temple in Detroit and became the most

prominent spokesperson for the Nation of Islam by the early 1960’s. It was then that he

took the name of Malcom X. (”Malcom,” pg.1)

Martin Luther King was born in Alanta, Georgia, the eldest son of Martin Luther King,

Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King. King attended local segregated public

schools, where he excelled. He entered nearby Morehouse College at age 15 and

graduated with a bachelors degree in sociology in 1948. After graduating with honors

from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1951, he went to Boston University

where he earned a doctoral degree in systematic theology in 1955. (”King, Martin

Luther, Jr.,” pg.1)

Throughout King’s education, he was exposed to influences that related Christian

theology to the struggles of oppressed peoples. At Morehouse, Crozer, and Boston

University, he studied the teachings on nonviolent Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi. King

also read and heard the sermons of white Protestant ministers who preached against

American racism. He was married in 1953, and in 1954, he accepted his first pastorate

at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, a church of

well-educated congretions that had recently by a minister who had protested against

segregation. (”King, Martin Luther, Jr.,” pg. 1)

Where as King was full of love, peace, respect, and compassion for his fellow white

brother, Malcom X was full of hate, anger, and vengeance. He was a dark presence, an

angry, cynical, implacable man whose good will or forgiveness or even pity the white

race could neither earn nor buy. “Coffee,” he once remarked in an interview, “is the only

thing I like integrated.” He also pleasantly mentioned that whites were inherently

enemies of the Negroes and that integration was impossible without great bloodletting.

Nonviolence was as he put it, “a mealy-mouth, beg-in, wait-in, plead-in kind of action,”

and it was only a device for disarming the blacks. He also believed that everything we

had heard to the contrary from the Martin Luther Kings and the Roy Wilkinses and the

Whiteny Youngs was a deadly dangerous pack of lies. “That’s etiquette,” he said.

“Etiquette means to blend in with society. They are being polite. The average Negro

doesn’t even let another Negro know what he thinks, he’s so mistrusting. I’m black

first- my whole objectives are black, my allegiance is black, my whole objectives are

black. By me being a Muslim, I’m not interested in American, because America has never

been interested in me.” (Goldman, pg.5)

Black blood, claimed Malcom X, is stronger than white. “A person can have a teaspoon

of black in him, and that makes him black. Black can’t come from white, but white can

come from black. That means black was first. If black is first, black is supreme and

white is dependent on black.” He meant to haunt whites, to play on their fears and

quicken their guilt and deflate their dreams that everything was getting better- and he

did. “America’s problem is us.” Malcom X told whites that if they argued that the sins of

the past ought not to visited on them, he would reply: “Your father isn’t here to pay his

debts. My father isn’t here to collect, but I’m here to collect, and you’re here to pay.”

(Goldman, pgs. 6-9)

Martin Luther King is known for his key role as president of the Montgomery

Improvement Association (MIA), the oganixation that directed the bus boycott in

Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery’s black community had long standing grievances

about the mistreatment of blacks on the city’s buses. Many white bus drivers treated

blacks rudely, often cursing them and humiliating them by enforcing the city’s

segregation laws, which forced black riders to sit in the back of busses and give up

their seats to white passengers on crowded busses. By the 1950’s, Montgomery’s

blacks discussed boycotting the busses in an effort to gain better treatment- but not

necessarily to end segregation. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a leading member of

the local branch of the NAACP, was ordered to give up her seat to a white passenger.

When she refused, she was arrested and taken to jail. Local leaders of the NAACP,

especially Edgar D. Nixon, recognized recently arrived King’s public speaking gifts as

great assets in the battle for black civil rights in Montgomery. King was soon chosen as

president of the MIA, the organization that directed the bus boycott. (”King, Martin

Luther, Jr., pg. 2)

The Montgomery bus boycott lasted for more than a year, demonstrating a new spirit

of protest among southern blacks. King’s serious demeanor and consistent appeal to

Christian brotherhood and American idealism made a positive impression on the whites

outside the south. In February 1956, the federal court ruled in favor of the MIA,

ordering the city buses to be desegregated. In 1957, King helped found the Southern

Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization of black churches and

ministers that aimed to challenge racial segregation. With King as president, SCLC

sought to complement the NAACP’s legal efforts to dismantle segregation through the

courts with other with other SCLC leaders encouraging the use of the non-violent

direct action to protest discrimination. These activities included marches,

demonstrations, and boycotts. The violent responses that direct action provoked from

some whites, eventually forced the federal government to confront issues of injustice

and racism in the South. (”King, Martin Luther, Jr., pg. 2)

Ultimately, Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X shared a similar dream. A dream that

one day their people would be able to be free from the bondage of prejudice and

racism, in which they were held captive. A dream that their children would be able to

live in a world where they would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the

content of their character. Although they differed greatly on their philosophies of the

means in which they tried to obtain their goal, they shared a common struggle. It was

this pain that laid so deep within their souls, that it drove them to speak out to a

country whose ears were not yet ready to listen, and whose minds could not stretch to

comprehend their radical and strange messages. Martin Luther King and Malcom X were

leaders in their time, but destined to be legends for all.

Work Cited

Ansboro, John J. Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Making of a Mind. New York: Orbis, 1982.

Breitman, George. By Any Means Necessary: Speeches, Interviews and a Letter by

Malcom X. New York: Pathfinder, 1970.

Goldman, Peter. The Death and Life of Malcom X. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.

“King, Martin Luther, Jr.” Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation,


“Malcom X.” Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation, 1993-1996.


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