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Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X

Essay by   •  February 6, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,987 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,482 Views

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Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X grew up in different

environments. King was raised in a comfortable middle-class

family where education was stressed. On the other hand,

Malcolm X came from and underprivileged home. He was a

self-taught man who received little schooling and rose to

greatness on his own intelligence and determination. Martin

Luther King was born into a family whose name in Atlanta

was well established. Despite segregation, Martin Luther

King's parents ensured that their child was secure and

happy.

Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925 and was raised in a

completely different atmosphere than King, an atmosphere of

fear and anger where the seeds of bitterness were planted.

The burning of his house by the Klu Klux Klan resulted in

the murder of his father. His mother later suffered a

nervous breakdown and his family was split up. He was

haunted by this early nightmare for most of his life. From

then on, he was driven by hatred and a desire for revenge.

The early backgrounds of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King

were largely responsible for the distinct different

responses to American racism. Both men ultimately became

towering icons of contemporary African-American culture and

had a great influence on black Americans. However, King had

a more positive attitude than Malcolm X, believing that

through peaceful demonstrations and arguments, blacks will

be able to someday achieve full equality with whites.

Malcolm X's despair about life was reflected in his angry,

pessimistic belief that equality is impossible because

whites have no moral conscience. King basically adopted on

an integrationalist philosophy, whereby he felt that blacks

and whites should be united and live together in peace.

Malcolm X, however, promoted nationalist and separatist

doctrines. For most of his life, he believed that only

through revolution and force could blacks attain their

rightful place in society.

Both X and King spread their message through powerful,

hard-hitting speeches. Nevertheless, their intentions were

delivered in different styles and purposes.

"King was basically a peaceful leader who urged

non-violence to his followers. He travelled about the

country giving speeches that inspired black and white

listeners to work together for racial harmony." (pg. 135,

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Movement)

Malcolm X, for the most part, believed that non-violence

and integration was a trick by the whites to keep blacks in

their places. He was furious at white racism and encouraged

his followers through his speeches to rise up and protest

against their white enemies. After Malcolm X broke away

from Elijah Mohammed, this change is reflected in his more

moderate speeches.

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King's childhoods had powerful

influences on the men and their speeches. Malcolm X was

brought up in an atmosphere of violence. During his

childhood, Malcolm X suffered not only from abuse by

whites, but also from domestic violence. His father beat

his mother and both of them abused their children. His

mother was forced to raise eight children during the

depression. After his mother had a mental breakdown, the

children were all placed in foster homes. Malcolm X's

resentment was increased as he suffered through the ravages

of integrated schooling. Although an intelligent student

who shared the dream of being a lawyer with Martin Luther

King, Malcolm X's anger and disillusionment caused him to

drop out of school. He started to use cocaine and set up a

burglary ring to support his expensive habit. Malcolm X's

hostility and promotion of violence as a way of getting

change was well established in his childhood.

Martin Luther King lived in an entirely different

environment. He was a smart student and skipped two grades

before entering an ivy league college at only the age of

15. He was the class valedictorian with an A average. King

paraded his graduation present in a new green Chevrolet

before his fellow graduates. He was raised in the perfect

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