- Free Essays, Term Papers & Book Notes

Martin Luther King, Jr. Vs. Malcolm X

By:   •  Essay  •  2,168 Words  •  March 7, 2010  •  2,733 Views

Page 1 of 9

Martin Luther King, Jr. Vs. Malcolm X

During the early 1960's in American History, the British Invasion was in full force, American troops were stationed in Vietnam and society was facing a transformation. In the midst of all these radical changes, the most prominent and extreme were the Civil Rights Movement and issue of racism that loomed over the heads of millions of Americans. With all the organizations and leaders involved with this movement, no more did the spotlight focus on anyone other than Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. While these two men and pioneers had some strong differences in the way they spoke, lived and viewed the Civil Rights Movement, they could agree that a change had to be made quickly towards the treatment of African Americans at that time. In the letter written by MLK from Birmingham, and the speech given by Malcolm X in Detroit, both make strong arguments by explaining their motives and morals in order to expose the harsh realities of racism and segregation and how they plan to overcome it. While MLK's rhetoric took more of a non-violent and religious approach, Malcolm X felt strong action and retaliation was necessary to achieve the goal. Despite the fact their different ways to carry out the process, these two Civil Rights leaders had a vision and a goal based on the equal treatment and better understanding of African Americans.

Known as one of the most visible advocates of nonviolence and direct action as methods of social change, one will often see Martin Luther King, Jr. fall under the same category as Gandhi

and Mother Teresa. Born on January 15th, 1929, MLK already had it in him by being born to a reverend and founder of Atlanta's NAACP chapter . After receiving his Ph.D. and co-founding the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, MLK soon became the voice for the African Americans . Known as remarkable orator with a booming voice, MLK spread the word of social change and anti-segregation in the heart of Alabama, where the country's racism was the worst. Often times MLK and hundreds of other protestors were arrested and thrown in jail by the infamous Sheriff "Bull" Connor and his police force sometime for merely just walking down the street. Even so in this case, MLK still did his part for the Civil Rights Movement by writing letters from jail to keep the rally and fight strong.

In April of 1963, MLK wrote a letter in response to a published statement by eight of his fellow clergymen from Alabama. The clergymen wrote to him stating they felt his activities in Birmingham were "unwise and untimely" criticizing his demonstrations to be dangerous and unnecessary. Although MLK's letter was addressed as a reply to these clergymen, the real audience was the white moderate, otherwise known as middle class America. Right from the start, one can notice the eloquence of the writing. This is one of the methods MLK uses to present his argument in a non-aggressive style and helps lay the tone of the essay in a moral sounding manner. This is essential when considering who MLK's target audience was. As a result, to motivate the clergymen and his target audience of the white moderate, MLK starts and explains his reasoning by writing, "I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" .

MLK begins to explain how Birmingham quite possibly could be the most segregated city in the United States where direct action needs to take place and countless times has he, several members of his staff and other fellow African Americans been let down by broken promises, suffered deep disappointment and harsh brutality. Therefore, MLK's solution is to seek through non-violent protests, "direct action whereby it would create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate (Birmingham) is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored" . MLK argues it would be unwise to sit idly by and let injustice occur. Instead of waiting for a more "timely" opportunity, he feels that "justice too long delayed is justice denied" and now is the time to act. In the next paragraph he takes a strong emotional approach to tell the clergymen what he has witnessed his whole life due to the stinging effect of segregation. From that, MLK illiterates the point that this violence and segregation roots from not the White Citizen's Council or the KKK, but the white moderate. He feels that their devotion to order rather than justice is the main cause of the social disorder. By simply allowing African Americans to get beaten and imprisoned to relieve the tension is better than negotiation to achieve justice. MLK's humble, non-aggressive tone hits quite hard by way of using examples of past experiences,

Continue for 8 more pages »  •  Join now to read essay Martin Luther King, Jr. Vs. Malcolm X
Download as (for upgraded members)