Before the involvement of both Martin Luther King Jr andMalcolm X, African-Americans still faced discrimination and violence; thisshows that the lives of African-Americans had not changed since slavery wasabolished in the 1800’s. The black population felt as if they were unsafewithin their community and that they were unable to go to the police forprotection as the American government could not be trusted.
Most of theviolence during the Civil Rights Movement was orchestrated by the police suchas the James Meredith, ‘March against Fear’ Campaign of June 1966. This showedthat most of the violence came from the police as on the second day of thecampaign he was shot. This was evidence that there was no social change forAfrican-Americans as they were still unequally treated within the Americansociety there for the individualists like Martin Luther King Jr believed thatsocial change needed to be enforced in order to improve the lives ofAfrican-Americans, especially in the south as it was severely segregated andhad higher rates of racial violence. King used his tactics of peaceful andnon-violent protests to fight for the lives of the Black population that weremarginalised and oppressed within the American society.
He believed that JimCrow’s ‘separate but equal’ law was ineffective in the south was ineffectivethe indifference between the two races existed; the Black citizens in the southwere inferior. America was still unequally divided and eventually, Malcolm Xbecame involved as be believed that Martin Luther King’s strategy of peacefuland non- violent protests were ineffective. Malcolm X became the voice of manyfurious African-Americans who believed that King’s strategy had failed andsocial change needed to be achieved differently even if it meant throughviolence.
Martin Luther King Jr was born in 1929 in Atlanta,Georgia. He was the son of Martin Luther King who was the most influentialBaptist Preachers in America. To start with King Jr rebelled at followingfather’s footsteps and instead seemed destined for the ministry like hisgrandfather. Under slavery the ministry had been open to African-Americans asit was the most desirable black path to security and prestige. Martin grew upin the South which was blasted and filled with white only signs and faced a lotof rejection as a ‘neggro’ child. This therefore had an impact on his sociallife, as he had limited freedom due to the racial restrictions.
Later he becameaware of how determined his father was to resist racism. King Jr’s motherbelieved that “One man can make a difference” and this encouraged King Jr totake advantage of his given talents even though he was defined as inferior dueto the colour of his skin. This caused him to be determined to defy theprejudicial laws of the south; he combined the teachings of Ghandi and Jesus tobreak the prejudicial laws as he believed that this could be a weapon totransform the hearts of white Americans.
He was an individual that drew peoplefrom the first time they met by his eloquence, sincerity and moral structure.Martin believed that the nonviolent method would be powerful enough to enforcedesegregation. The case of Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka (1954) was oneof the main foundations that pushed the Civil Rights Movement, and helpedestablish the injustice of “separate-but-equal” within education and otherservices, it was in fact unequal. May 17th1954 was the day that the Supreme Court decided that Jim Crow’s “separate butequal law” should be abolished within the education system as it defies the lawof the 14th Amendment. Warren stated that “in the field of public education thedoctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place,” as segregated schools are”inherently unequal.” This angered the majority of the white population in thesouth and caused white violence against the blacks. Even though desegregationwithin the education system was passed as a law, it was only verbally enforcedrather than by actions. The Supreme Court did not know how the enforceintegration within schools.
There was still an indifference betweenAfrican-Americans and white Americans, on major example is Little Rock; where thestate National Guard prevented black students from attending high school inLittle Rock in 1957. However President Eisenhower retaliated to this racialmarginalisation by enforcing federal troops to escort and protect nine studentswho are also known as the “Little Rock Nine” enter Central High School underarmed guard protection. On the contrary, they were still terrorised by theraging white crowd whilst being escorted into the school. This shows that therewas still no social change for African-Americans even though by law they were’equal’ to white Americans. Therefore Martin Luther King joined the NationalAssociation for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and he was determinedto use his influence, eloquence and dedication to non-violence to strive forchange in the South. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a White passengeron a Montgomery bus this resulted in her arrest. Activists were angered by thisand decided to retaliate through the Montgomery Boycott (1955). Martin waselected president of the Montgomery improvement association to develop and leadthe boycott.
Dexter Avenue Church was used for protests. On the 5th of December theMontgomery busses started the ‘peaceful protests’ and 18,000 African-Americansbegan to ride on the buses daily. Martin decided to keep the buses runninguntil American federal government met the requirements of the African-Americanpopulation, which was to integrate busses, hire coloured bus drivers, andenforce a first come first serve policy with seats rather that prioritise thewhites. The Boycott had a economic strain on bus owners and businesses lasted 381 days and the government finally, in1956 the Supreme Court ruled that it bus segregation policy on Montgomery buseswas unconstitutional. This was a successfor Martin as his non-violent tragedy had successfully worked and he now becamethe voice of many African-Americans that were hungry for social change. In 1959, King went on a five week tour inIndia and met Ghandi’s relatives. Duringhis visit he was stunned by the similarities between India’s mistreatment ofthe Untouchable caste and of African-Americans in America, this encouraged himto fight for racial harmony and equality. When he returned he was eager to usethe non-violent strategy to improve the lives of African-Americans.
Though hisprotests in Georgia (1961-62) were unsuccessful, Martin decided not to give upbut find alternatives to strengthen his techniques. Later in 1963, martindecided to challenge himself and target Birmingham, Alabama which was the most segregatedarea. King used non-violent methods of sit-ins, boycotts and marches to fightfor desegregation and equality for African-Americans. As a result, King was imprisonedfor his participation in Birmingham (1963), he wrote the letter in his cell’The Letter from Birmingham Jail’ where he defended his direct non-violentactions where as the authorities used violence to separate the protests, evenif it resulted in brutal fatalities. Despite hisdefence he was criticised by White clergymen as they regarded his actions for justiceas disobedient. After kings release later that year he participated in TheMarch on Washington (1963). 250,000 people gathered at Lincoln memorial tohighlight the injustice that African- Americans faced regarding jobs and howlimited their ‘freedom’ was after emancipation. Martin delivered his ‘I Have ADream’ speech which moved many; he was now seen as an icon of many that facedracial injustice within America which was seen as the ‘land of the free’.
Eventuallycongress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ending segregation within housingand public facilities. At the age of 35, King won the Nobel Prize and wasdeemed at a charismatic leader for both White and African-Americans thatbelieved in social change and that one day America will be safe for all races. Thiswasn’t the end of Martin’s battle for African- American and in Selma (1964) he campaignedfor the Voting Rights Act in Selma. Before Martin’s involvement only 2% ofAfrican-Americans were registered to vote, King’s involvement resulted in the desegregationof the Voting Rights Act which eradicated the barriers that African-Americansfaced. He moved to Chicago’s West side of black ghetto, where he tried tobattle the economic injustice that African-Americans faced. Martin found itdifficult to unite people of Chicago and enforce it non-violence strategy as hewas seen as an outsider despite his position as a charismatic leader. The peopleof Chicago sided with the more militant approach of Malcolm X and believed in ‘BlackPower’. King’s battle for equality and racial harmony consequently cost him hislife, and on April 4th 1968 he was assassinated in Memphis at aMotel by James Earl Ray who was one of the White supremacists that believed inWhite Power and disagreed with the views of King.
Due to the assassination ofKing, there was a huge wave of riots across America as a way of mourning thedeath of their charismatic leader.Malcolm Little was born in 1925 in Little Omaha,Nebraska. He grew up with acceptance to violence as his mother used to beathim. Malcolm’s father supported Marcus Gavey’s view of Separatism andNationalism, his father died in 1931 which left his widowed mother unable tocope with the poverty that the family faced. This caused her to becomedepressed which resulted in her being put in an insane asylum in 1939. Malcolmleft school full of resentment, he was very intellectually competent enough tofulfil his dreams of becoming a lawyer but one of his teacher made him realisehis disillusionment by telling him that “he should forget his dreams ofbecoming a lawyer as its ‘unrealistic for a nigger’ ” In his autobiography,Malcolm defined his foster parents as ‘quite patronising’.
In 1941 he moved toBoston also known as a ‘Black Ghetto’ area, where he took the traditional lowpaying jobs for African-Americans as a shoe shiner and a railroad waiter. Helater then turned to the illegitimate side and began selling drugs, pimping andburgling which consequently resulted in a 10 year prison sentence. Whilst beingincarcerated, Malcolm joined the NOIalso known as Nation of Islam which wasa religious organisation what started in 1930 that aimed to improve the livesof African-Americans merging both Islamic and non- Islamic beliefs to strivefor change. The Islamic organisation,taught Malcolm that ‘white men are the devil’ he stated that “This was aperfect echo of his life long experience”. After leaving prison he changed hisslave given name ‘Little’ to ‘X’.
Now known as Malcolm X, he began his political careershortly after joining the Nation of Islam, there view was that Black peoplewere better off living separately from the Whites rather than living in anintegrated society. His position within the NOI organisation rapidly rose andhe recruited many members from Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia and New York. He became a minister of Temple 7 in Harlem in1954. X attracted both national and international attention, as he wasattempting to help rise the social position of African-Americans in America. Hecontrasted the view of King, and believed that Blacks should defend themselvesby any means necessary even if it means violence. Malcolm x always criticisedthe non- violent strategy that Martin Luther King enforced.
In 1963 he partedfrom the Nation of Islam, which resulted in Elijah Muhammad refusing him toparticipate in Birmingham (1963). Eventually he began to reject the racisttheology of the Islamic organisation and established an organisation ofAfro-American, which aimed to unite all African Americans and promotepolitical, social and economic independence of African-Americans which was asimilar view to King’s. In 1964 Malcolm moved towards socialism because of howappalled he was the economic inequality that African-Americans faced. He was animportant figure of Black Power in the 1960’s; he was seen as a role model,inspiration and an icon for the black disconnected population that reside inghetto areas. Also he played a huge part in the alienation of the ‘whiteAmerica’ which pushed aside white superiority and helped enforce equality.
Malcolm X strived to upgrade the lives ofAfrican-Americans using his position and his publicity to alert members of thepublic and society the oppression that African-Americans faced in their home.He used sermons, speeches and writing. He aimed to encourage All Americans toacknowledge the racial problems within America and how African-Americans werewith exploited and subordinated within society. In 1966 the SNCC called for black power and it was mainly influenced byMalcolm this shows the impact that he had on the African-American population.
However, when the New YorkTimes ran a poll of who was doing the best work for blacks Malcolm wasdistraught to find out that Martin Luther king was chose by 75% of thepopulation and him only 6%. In his autobiography he stated “some of history’sgreatest leaders never were recognized until they were safely in the ground”.Malcolm knew that his work did not please any one and that there will beconsequences for his participation in fighting for the freedom ofAfrican-Americans.
Be believed that him and Martin shared the same goal offighting to eradicate inequality but used separate tactics.In his autobiographyThe Autobiography of Malcolm x he stated “I am only facing the facts when Iknow that any day, or any night, could bring me death. Malcolm knew that hewould have to pay with his life to liberate America from racial violence andimprove the social status of African-Americans. Eventually, he was assassinatedin 1965 by Nation of Islam gunman. Malcolm’s assassination showed that TheCivil Rights groups lacked unity instead of collaborating to fight for racialjustice they began to fight each other. Black Muslim mosques in Harlem which isa back communal area were set on fire by some of Malcolm’s followers. After his death the media such as the NewYork Times defined him as an ‘extraordinary and twisted man’ and believed thathe used his gifts for evil purposes.
In addition, the Time magazine stated thathis ‘gospel was hatred’. Despite being labelled as a ‘martyr’ by the mediaafter his death, Malcolm’s social influence still remained strong amongst theblack population that followed him. The Black Panther Party (1966) supportsthis as it showed that individualist like Huey Newton and Bobby Seale weredetermined to carry on the work or Martin and help the black working – classand improve living conditions for them. He still remains a key figure withinthe lives of African-Americans even after his death. It is shown in Spike Lee’sfilm