Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X wereboth powerful African Americans who left their mark on the United States.
Thoughtheir views on the issue of Civil Rights were the same in principal, theirdiverse upbringings and methods that they handled the protest couldn’t be moredifferent. King was born in Atlanta, Georgia onJanuary 15,1929 to Martin Luther King Sr, a Baptist minister and Alberta Williams King. King entered Morehousecollege at the young age of 15 and was made a Baptist member at the age of 17.King continued his studies at Crozer TheologicalSeminary where he graduated as class president, three years later he wouldgraduate from Boston University to receive his Ph.D.
While studying at Crozerand Boston, King would be introduced to the works of the Indian nationalistMahatma Ghandi, whose ideas became central to his philosophy of nonviolentprotests. Malcolm Little was born onMay 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. His father Earl was a traveling Baptistminister who made little money. When Malcolm wassix years old, his father was found dead on the side of streetcar tracks.Although it was never proven, Malcolm andhis family believed that Earl’s enemies had murdered him. Malcolm was deeply affectedby the experience of losing his father to violence. Malcolm’s motherstruggled with poverty, raising her children alone.
During this time, Malcolm’s behavior became aproblem and in 1938, he was removed from his mother’s care and placed in hisfirst foster home. Malcolm wascared for by a series of white foster parents. Though they were kind to him,they failed to nurture his intelligence, despite his obvious potential. Histeachers and others discouraged him from pursuing highly paid careers, so Malcolm quit school after theeighth grade, as he was eager to please his foster parents and other whiteauthorities. In1942, seventeen-year-old Malcolm wentto live with his half-sister in Boston, Massachusetts. He then secured a position as a dining car attendant on a trainand moved to Harlem, one of New York City’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods.While inHarlem, Malcolm soldnarcotics and worked in prostitution rings.
He was known on the streets as”Detroit Red.” “When Malcolm wastwenty years old, he was arrested and found guilty of armed robbery. He spenteight years in prison. While in prison Malcolm came under the influence ofBlack Muslims who taught him that whites were the devils that had robbedAfrican Americans of their true homeland, names, and religion.
They toldMalcolm that his name “Little” had been given to his ancestors by their slavemasters. Under the guidance of the Muslims, Malcolm changes his name to “X”.” (ThomasLandenberg, Martin Luther King & Malcolm X on Violence and Integration,2016, 29-30)After the Supreme Court outlawed segregation of public schools in1954, another event occurred that sparked Dr. King into action. In Montgomery,the African American community was outraged when a woman on her way home fromwork, Rosa Parks, was arrested for not giving up her seat to a white man.
Martin Luther King was chosen to lead the Montgomery Improvement Association,the group aimed to end the racial segregation by boycotting the bus. Whileboycotting, King was arrested and jailed, his home was bombed, and he receivednumerous threats against his life. The boycott ended with King’s nonviolentprotests having a clear win with the Supreme Court outlawing all segregatedpublic transposition in the city and King emerged as a highly respected leader.Another example of his success with nonviolent protesting occurred when he ledthe historic March in Washington, August, 28 1963, where he delivered hisfamous “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he asked for equal justice for allcitizens. In 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 1965 he spokewith president Lyndon Johnson to discuss voting rights for African Americans.The following August the Voting Act of 1965 was signed. Malcolm X was aseparatist who argued that African Americans will never achieve equality in asociety dominated by whites. As a result, he encouraged the blacks to “fightback” in an armed revolution or at least to do so when he attacked.
He wantedthe blacks to form a new society of their own kind rather than trying tointegrate within dominant white society. The issue with Malcolm X’s protestswas that his “by any means necessary” motive made people fear him instead ofshowing the same respect they did for Dr. King. Bythe early 1960s, Malcolm X had emerged as a leading voice of a radicalized wingof the Civil Rights Movement, presenting a philosophical alternative to Dr. King’s vision ofa racially-integrated society achieved by peaceful means. Dr.
King was highlycritical of what he viewed as Malcolm X’s destructive demagoguery. “I feelthat Malcolm has done himself and our people a great disservice,” Kingonce said.