King Jr and Malcolm X: Similarities and differences

Two Most Remarkable leaders of the Civil Rights movement : King Jr and X

The Civil Rights movement is remarkable for the emergence of several remarkable leaders including Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. These are two leaders that remained at the helm of the movement and despite deep differences in their leadership styles were instrumental in inspiring energy and hope among the African Americans. There are both similarities and differences between these two outstanding leaders, each known for his own distinct style. Each has left an unforgettable mark in the history of black rights. The reconstruction period in the American history had been followed by the enactment of the Jim Crow laws. It was like a racial caste system enacted in the Southern states.  While the Northern states were free of any such laws, still discrimination was rampant there. President Roosevelt passed the Executive order 8802 in 1941 on June 25 which resulted in the banning of prejudicial hiring in the government offices as well as the defense industry.

Things changed further in 1954 when racial segregation in schools was found to be in violation of the constitution. Rosa parks was arrested on December 1, 1955 for refusing to leave her seat for a white passenger. As a result, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was forced to request the entire African American community to stop using the public buses. November 1956, the US Supreme Court decided that the bus system had violated the 14th Amendment. A Federal Injunction forced Montgomery to desegregate its buses. However, all these rulings and injunctions failed to achieve anything substantial. The Civil Right movement made the biggest collective effort against racial discrimination and both King Jr and Malcolm X played important roles in providing leadership to the movement.

However, there are bigger points of difference between the two leaders than there are similarities between them. Still a major similarity between the two was that apart from being political leaders they were religious leaders too. While King was a pastor for the Baptist Church in Montgomery, X was a Muslim minister for the nation of Islam. The beliefs between the two religions are vastly different but still there are important similarities. Though King and X both aimed to achieve equality and freedom for the blacks they did it in different styles.  King’s methods were non-violent whereas X was trying to encourage the African Americans to achieve complete segregation from the whites at every cost. X’s style represented the underlying Black fury. He did not care of all of it was achieved at the cost of violence.

King gave his famous ‘I have a Dream’ Speech before a crowd of more than 200,000 people on the steps of Lincoln Memorial in 1963. He spoke of his dream of achieving complete equality and of the day when the two races will stand hand in hand. In his speech, he also equated racial injustice with quicksand and declared that the nation should be brought out of it. In his speech, he also mentioned that it was time that the promises of democracy were realized. His speech also indicated that the struggle would continue till the African Americans were given their equal status. Till they were provided with their rights, the unrest was going to continue.  Still, he was not in favour of violent methods and advocated dignity and discipline in its place. His speech focuses on social equality and his dream of a nation where people were not judged by their color but character. According to him complete freedom lay in social equality and it should be achieved. All races should live together hand in hand as a united nation.

Malcom X’s ideology can be understood by his speech Black revolution. He gave the speech in 1963 which focuses mainly on the exploitation and oppression that the African American community was subjected to. In his speech he equated the whites with blood thirsty wolves that were used to treating the African Americans as sheep. He stated that the African Americans should press their demand for total freedom rather than continue to be oppressed by the white race. Since whites were a wicked race, a complete separation from them could be the best way for the African Americans.  Malcolm X incited the African Americans to overcome their weaknesses for which they were being exploited by the whites. Integration according to him was a dangerous proposal and integrating with a wicked race could prove further degrading for the African American community.

King and X both were influential leaders whose sole aim was to bring the African Americans out of an era of exploitation. Still, while King was in the favour of equality, X advocated separation and a separate status. King’s methods were relatively mild and in this regard he considered Mahatma Gandhi his teacher. He believed that the two races could still stand united. King advocated non-violence and considered that it could be the only way to success that the whites were not considered an enemy race. It would further brew bad feelings between the two races. X however, did not believe in union and according to him all hope of communion was lost. He advocated harsh methods and used strong words when referring to the whites in his speech. Neither did he believe that safe coexistence with the whites was possible. Still, both the leaders were influential among the African Americans and were fighting for the same cause which was the liberation of the community from any kind of exploitation and slavery. Even if the movement achieved limited success, the two leaders hold their own important place in the history of civil rights.