Martin Luther King and Malcolm X: Different Men With the Same Goal
Martin Luther King jr. and Malcolm X are still highly controversial African-American leaders. Martin, a Christian integrationist, and Malcolm, a Muslim nationalist have been a powerful force against racial injustice. Each man sacrificed his life for the freedom of his people; however, Martin and Malcolm had taken very different approaches in achieving equality and identity for African-Americans in the land of their birth.
In order to better understand why King and X took the course of action each took, one must take into account a little bit of their background. Martin Luther King jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia into a middle-class family. The church was his source of leadership development and it helped provide him with moral values. Home and church were the most important influences in the early life of King. In both contexts, he was introduced to the integrationist values of protest, accommodations, self-help and optimism as they were related to the religious themes of justice, love and hope. He was introduced to the value of education as a potent way of helping him assert his self-worth to become a church and community leader and to fight racism in the larger society. “King’s basis for his campaign of nonviolence originated in the highest type of love - love for people who hate you. King preached that the combination of agape (spiritual love) with nonviolent action would elicit change”(Walton 78).
It is quite easy for me to think of a God of love mainly because I grew up in a family where love was central and where lovely relationships were ever present. It is quite easy for me to think of the universe as basically friendly mainly because of my uplifting hereditary and environmental circumstances. It is quite easy for me to lean more toward optimism than pessimism about human nature mainly because of my childhood experiences. It is impossible to get at the roots of one’s religious attitudes without taking in account the psychological and historical factors that play upon the individual. (Hamilton 19).
In contrast to King’s origin in the southern African-American middle class, Malcolm X was a product of the Northern poor African-American masses. Born in Omaha Nebraska, Malcolm was the son of a Baptist preacher. However, Malcolm became a minister of the religion of Islam. Malcolm X joined Elijah Muhammad and created a movement that focused around the word power, not love and virtue. “Psychologically they argued that violence was a healthy way to release the pain of oppression and that to love people who hate you is unnatural”(Walton 90).
Like Martin, Malcolm spent many years preparing for his vocation as a minister and public speaker, but unlike Martin, who earned his doctorate, Malcolm’s formal education ended in eighth grade. Malcolm often introduced himself for public debates by starting off...