Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X: Incompatible or Complementary?

martin and malcolm

Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X helped shape American black and white culture today. MLK and X seemingly preach two opposing futures for black politics. Martin’s call for nonviolent resistance and Malcolm’s insistence on “any means necessary” were often juxtaposed by society. Malcolm X is often misrepresented as the `black Klu Klux Klan” of racial extremists. Others often misrepresent Martin L. K. as a “religious Uncle Tom pacifist”.

These are both gross caricatures of both legendary men. Even decades after their deaths, Martin and Malcolm remain great American icons. However were they ideological opposites? What were the personal, social, and political factors that influenced their leaderships? Where do they differ and where do they converge? What did liberty and justice mean for both leaders? Did victory mean two different things for them? What ways do their ideas converge? What major events shaped their lives? Did their ideologies begin to converge? Church, enemies, allies, family, socioeconomic background, upbringing, faith, education, social environment, experiences with whites and blacks: these were all agents in the formation of their strong views. Through this paper, I posit that although their ideologies sometimes clashed, in the long run they were more conducive to one another than destructive.

Martin was a pastor and civil rights leader, later he became the spokesperson for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Martin was born January 15th, 1929 to Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. in Atlanta, Georgia. His love for the Christian faith was fostered in a black Baptist understanding. He was named Times “Man of the Year” in 1963 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, as well as being the only American with a national holiday in to his name. “King’s practice and thought radically transformed America’s understanding of itself and inspired liberation movement around the world.”

Initially, his negative experiences with racial segregation was brought on early at the age five when a white friend’s father told Martin that his son was no longer allowed to play with Martin due to his skin colour. During his childhood, much like Malcolm, he was determined to hate all whites. This attitude changed through the influence of education, positive experience with moderate whites, and most importantly with a greater understanding of religion.

This, he experienced while studying at Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania and at Boston University School of theology. While studying he encountered Henry David Thoreau’s “Essay on Civil Disobedience”.

Read more from: Constant Moon

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