Review of James H. Cone's Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or A Nightmare
Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare written by James H.
Cone is a book that takes an in depth look at Martin Luther King Jr.
and Malcolm X, their ties to each other and what they meant to
American society. Before the reader can understand why Martin and
Malcolm developed such varying views on civil rights, he first
discusses the details of the social and economic lifestyles that each
man was raised. Cone explains that through their personal backgrounds,
Martin's stable familial and financial security where he was protected
from racism as opposed to Malcolm, whose family was broken and
economically deprived, is what cause one to become and integrationist
and the other, a nationalist.
Cone then begins to analyze the religious backgrounds, which he claims
would later shape their opinions on American society. He shows that
his Christian background and its teachings to love everyone, including
your enemies formed Martin's concepts such as the "American Dream",
nonviolent protest, and love of the enemy. The author shows that
Martin's ideas were also shaped by the emphasis of the Black Church
and their comparison to themselves to the Hebrews of the Old Testament
and their past as slaves. Their belief that God would deliver them and
lead them to a Promised Land gave King the inspiration to preach of an
American dream for black people.
Cone's next discussion involves the religious background that shaped
Malcolm's theories and ideas. The author discusses the reasons why
Muslim beliefs were so easy for Malcolm to accept. For Malcolm, Cone
discusses the Muslim beliefs as taught by Elijah Muhammad that
revolved around the ideas that African-Americans were the chosen race
of God and that white people were devils that would eventually be
destroyed. Cone explains that these were ideas that Malcolm could
believe in because of his experiences. Malcolm's strong convictions in
his faith, Cone assesses, is what would lead to the beliefs that
Malcolm would become known for such as, "By any means necessary",
anti-integration, and his belief that God only helps those who help
Cone progresses in the book to explain what these two leader's
religious beliefs and varying theories began to shape the
African-American's view on which way freedom could be best achieved in
the 1960's. Cone's last analysis of these two men is of the strengths
and weaknesses in each man's philosophy and the effects they had on
society then and now.
Cone concludes that the different social and economic backgrounds are
what led these two men to practice their respective religions. The
author then argues that their religions are what would lead them to
develop their very different philosophies on American and how...