Comparison of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcom X

They were black men who had a dream, but never lived to see it fulfilled. One was a man who spoke out to all humanity, but the world was not yet ready for his peaceful words. "I have a dream, a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed... that all men are created equal." (Martin Luther King) The other, a man who spoke of a violent revolution, which would bring about radical change for the black race. "Anything you can think of that you want to change right now, the only way you can do it is with a ballot or a bullet. And if you're not ready to get involved with either one of those, you are satisfied with the status quo. That means we'll have to change you." (Malcom X) While Martin Luther King promoted non-violence, civil rights, and the end to racial segregation, a man of the name of Malcom X dreamed of a separate nation.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was the conscience of his generation. A Southerner, a black man, he gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to free all people from the bondage of separation and injustice, he wrung his eloquent statement of what America could be. (Ansboro, pg.1) An American clergyman and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he was one of the principle leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement and a prominent advocate of nonviolent protest. King's challenges to segregation and racial discrimination in the 1950's and 1960's, helped convince many white Americans to support the cause of civil rights in the United States. After his assassination in 1968, King became the symbol of protest in the struggle for racial justice. ("King, Martin Luther, Jr.," pg. 1)

In 1964, Malcom X founded an organization called "The Muslim Mosque, Inc. In an interview conducted by A.B. Spellman on March 19, 1964, Malcom speaks of his goals for this organization. "The Muslim Mosque, Inc. will have as its religious base the religion of Islam, which will be designed to propagate the moral reformations necesary to up the level of the so-called Negro community by eliminating the vices and other evils that destroy the moral fiber of the community. But the political philosophy of the Muslim Mosque will be black nationalism, as well as the social and economic philosophies. We still believe in the Honorable Elijah Muhammand's solution as complete separation. The 22 million so-called Negroes should be separated completely from America and should be permitted to go back home to our native African homeland." (Breitmaned, pgs. 5-6)

Perhaps the key to these two African-Americans leaders opposing goals lay within their very different pasts. Malcom X was born in Omaha as Malcom Little. Malcom's faith, a Baptist minister was an outspoken follower of Marcus Garvey, the black nationalist leader of the 1920's. The family moved to Lansing, Michigan, and when Malcom was six years old, his father was murdered after receiving threats from the Ku Klux Klan. Malcom's mother suffered a nervous breakdown and her eight children were taken by the welfare department. Malcom was sent first to a foster home and then to a reform school. After 8th grade, Malcom moved to Boston where he worked various jobs and eventually became involved in criminal activity. (Malcom X, pg.1)

In 1946, he was sentenced to prison for burglary. While in prison, Malcom became invested in the teachings of Elijah Muhammed, the leader of the black Muslims also called the Nation of Islam. Malcom spent his time in jail educating himself and learning more about the black Muslims, who advocated racial separation. When Malcom was released in 1952, he joined a black Muslim temple in Detroit and became the most prominent spokesperson for the Nation of Islam by the early 1960's. It was then that he took the name of Malcom X. ("Malcom," pg.1)

Martin Luther King was born in Alanta, Georgia, the eldest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King. King attended local segregated public schools, where he excelled. He entered nearby Morehouse College at age 15 and graduated with a bachelors degree in sociology in 1948. After graduating with honors from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in