Although Martin Luther King and Malcolm X both provided exceptional leadership during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's, both took different paths in fighting for African American rights. The two, separately, were the defining figures of the 1960's black freedom struggle. On one side, you had a comfortable middle-class family southern Baptist: King, who advocated nonviolence learned through the studying of Gandhi juxtaposed with X, advocating social awareness who learned by experiencing injustice in society while studying lessons on Islam and black power. Popular understanding has King on top of the list as the more influential leader during the Civil Rights Movement but is this really the case? Through the study of analyzing each childhood, rhetoric, and impact considering speeches like King's I Have a Dream speech given during the March on Washington and X's critique of the March on Washington in Message to the Grassroots, I hope to prove that Malcolm X's "nightmare” radical view is often misinterpreted and deemed radical yet still proved to be as equally important as Martin Luther King Jr's "dream” in the fight for black freedom. Lastly, showing that these two men not as polar opposites, but as two leaders who disagreed on method, but were in agreement on the outcome ultimately moving the American nation towards the goal of justice for all.
Before we can truly value what great importance both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X contributed not only to the 1960's but modern day America we must first look at their upbringing. Martin and Malcolm grew up in vastly different environments. Comparing their lives provides a clue to the radical differences on the view of America later in their lives.
Martin, who was born in Atlanta Georgia, was raised in a middle class family where education was stressed. He was the child of Baptist minister who grew up in a family that encouraged him to notice and respond to injustices. Also, even though he grew up in the segregated Jim Crow south encounters with racial discrimination were mild but formative. According to James Cone, in his book, Martin and Malcolm and America, home and church were the most important influences upon the early life of Martin. In both contexts, he was "introduced to the integrationist values of protest, accommodation, self-help, and optimism." Martin was a very bright student who skipped both the 9th and 12th grades allowing him to enroll in college when he was only fifteen years old. He attended Morehouse College earning a bachelor's in Sociology At last; Martin received his PhD in Systematic Theology from Boston University. According to Cone, it seemed that King's life was socially, religiously, and educationally shaped so that his proclamation of the "American Dream" seemed inevitable
Malcolm, on the other hand, had a much darker childhood. Malcolm's social, educational, and religious upbringing was not as fortunate as Martin's. Malcolm was the child of political...