Sample History Research Paper on Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X

Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X

Two of the biggest civil rights advocators in the History of the United States, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King are echoed in the history of the civil rights movement. Both were major proponents of equality in the United and contributed greatly to the guarantee of civil rights to the minority groups. Born in 1929, on January 15, King was one of the many religious leaders who campaigned for civil rights among the blacks before becoming full entangled in the civil rights fights during the Montgomery Bus Boycott of which he was one of the leaders[1]. On the other hand, Malcolm X was around the same period in 1925[2]. Both civil rights leaders were assassinated in 1968 and 1965 respectively. Despite both leaders being advocators of civil rights and fighters of inequality, they used different strategies to further their messages. As such, the following paper will compare and contrast both leaders’ strategies and philosophies in their fight for civil rights.

The differences between Martin Luther and Malcolm are horned by the backgrounds of the two civil rights leaders. While King was brought up in an affluent, middle-class family, Malcolm X was brought up in dire poverty and violence which culminated with his ten-year prison tenure. On the contrary, King rarely faced violence or racial discrimination in his early life and was well educated. As such, the leaders had highly contrasting views on the direction the civil rights movement should take. Tactically the leaders had different views; Malcolm X advocated the use of any means necessary, including violence while King was strictly against the use of violence. According to Luther, organizing the movement around self-defense would ultimately lead to the insertion of violence in the whole campaign. King asserted that aggressive violence was separated by a thin line from armed violence[3]. On the other hand, Malcolm X advocated for self-defense. Malcolm claimed that the use of propaganda and non-violent measures was inadequate and only led to more discrimination. According to Malcolm X, the violence that the blacks consistently faced from white extremists meant that self-defense was a necessity that ultimately meant the use of violence[4]. However, Martin Luther believed that violence multiplies evil and only increases the hate between the races. Also, he claimed that darkness cannot fight the darkness. Malcolm X, however, insisted that relying on morality based tactics in baseless since such tactics can only succeed when dealing with morally upright individuals. As such, the two leaders differed on the issue of violence utilization.

Another issue that the two civil rights legends differed on was how the Whites can contribute to the civil rights struggle. While King believed they had a vital role to play, Malcolm insisted the fight only belonged to the colored minority. According to King, the racial problem was national and did not only belong to a section of the people. He claimed that injustice to a section of the country was injustice to the entire country. As asserted in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King claims that every American, including the Whites, has a role to play in the fight against racial discrimination[5]. On the contrary, Malcolm X, as asserted in his autobiography, believed in Black Nationalism. Black Nationalism bellied on the solving of black problems by black people. Malcolm found that no white individual, including the White liberal, can understand or tolerate a black nationalist. In one particular case, Malcolm compares the white liberal to a “Fox” and claims the white supremacists is a “Wolf” and that it is impossible to ask a fox for help to fight a wolf. As such, they both had contrasting views on the role of White liberals.

The two leaders also differed on the issue of integration. While King favored an integrated society, Malcolm embraced a divided society. Malcolm X insisted that the American society had been divided on racial grounds since the advent of slavery, and nothing could alter the split. He proposed continued division between the white and black communities. Malcolm’s proposal involved letting each race control its people and its activities. It meant letting the alleged White Nationalism reign supreme in white communities while allowing Black Nationalism reign supreme in black communities[6]. On the other hand, Martin Luther King Jr, as asserted by his “dream” speech, believed in the integration of all persons in the United States. King feldt that all the individuals should come together to create a better United States. In his speech, Luther believed that one day, the issues or racial discrimination and injustice would become a thing of the past. Malcolm, unlike Martin Luther, believed that any integration of the two races would lead to the diminishment of the black with the belief that he is inferior to the white man. 

Despite the obvious differences between the two leaders, there were several aspects in which they supported the same philosophies. According to both leaders, education was key in the fight against racial discrimination. Both insisted that with education, the people possessed a weapon they could use against inequality in the United States[7][8]. Also, they both believed in ending the injustice against all racial minorities. Although they differed on the issue of integration, they both believed that each race should be treated with equal dignity and tolerance. They also believed that all opportunities should be shared equally. Martin Luther and Malcolm X, in their different opinions, contributed to the new United States devoid of any racial issues.

References

Breitman, George. The Last Year of Malcolm: The Evolution of a Revolutionary. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970.

King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” King Encyclopedia. April 16, 1963. http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/annotated_letter_from_birmingham/ (accessed December 5, 2015).

—. Stride Toward Freedom. New York: Harper and Row, 1958.

Malcolm X & Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1965.

MalcolmX. “The Ballot or the Bullet.” Powerful Words. April 3, 1963. http://www.powerfulwords.info/speeches/Malcolm_x/1.htm (accessed December 5, 2015).

Martin Luther King & Clayborne Carson. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1968.


[1] Martin Luther King & Clayborne Carson. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1968.

[2][2] Malcolm X & Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1965.

[3] Stride Toward Freedom. New York: Harper and Row, 1958.

[4] Breitman, George. The Last Year of Malcolm: The Evolution of a Revolutionary. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970.

[5] King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” King Encyclopedia. April 16, 1963. http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/annotated_letter_from_birmingham/ (accessed December 5, 2015).

[6] MalcolmX. “The Ballot or the Bullet.” Powerful Words. April 3, 1963. http://www.powerfulwords.info/speeches/Malcolm_x/1.htm (accessed December 5, 2015).

[7] Martin Luther King & Clayborne Carson. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1968.

[8] Malcolm X & Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1965.