Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

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Contrast and compare Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X?

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Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) and Malcolm X were both human rights activists and leaders, but differed in some of their fundamental ideologies and practices.

MLK was a leader in the African American Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s, and he believed in the value of civil disobedience as a means of change. He was a Baptist minister and favored nonviolent forms of protest, leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and organizing nonviolent protests, such as the March on Washington, DC, in 1963.

Malcolm X was also a human rights activist advocating for the advancement of black Americans, but he was strongly against the Civil Rights Movement for its focus on racially integrated society. Malcolm X was also a minister in the Muslim faith and a member of the Nation of Islam. Early in his career as a human rights leader, he was quite violently anti-white and believed that people of color should be kept separate from white people for their own safety. By 1964, he turned away from Nation of Islam as he had come to disagree with many of their social beliefs. He instead began practicing Sunni Islam and became a supporter of Pan-African and self-determinist African identities. He believed that Sunni Islam could be a way for people to achieve equality, regardless of skin color, and he even renounced his former hatred for white people.

Both opposed the systematic oppression of people of color and the involvement of the United States in conflicts overseas. Both were also assassinated by people angry with their messages, but Malcolm X was assassinated by members of Nation of Islam who were angry with his leaving their community.

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were both deeply religious men who believed their faiths offered a path to equality among the races, though they worked through differing social movements. Their activism had a lasting impact that can still be felt in the United States today, and many Americans look back to them for inspiration in their efforts to remedy the racial inequality that persists in many societal structures.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 21, 2020
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