What roles did the following people play in the Civil Rights Movement, according to Baldwin: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Baldwin himself?

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James Baldwin understood MLK as an integrationist and Malcom X as a radical separatist. Baldwin understood himself to be positioned in between these two figures. James Baldwin was an author, academic, and playwright who advocated for black liberation by any means necessary, but he also believed that integration of all peoples could be possible.

For most of Martin Luther King Jr.'s participation in the Civil Rights Movement, he was a liberal preacher who advocated for political and social reform to progress the rights of black people in the United States. For much of his time in the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. did not hold radical beliefs, believed non-violent action was the only tool to challenge the state and white supremacist society, and condemned those who positioned themselves against war and US imperialism.

Malcom X, conversely, came into the Civil Rights Movement as a radical black nationalist who embraced a diversity of tactics against the state and white supremacist vigilantes. Malcom X encouraged black people to defend and liberate themselves through whatever means necessary rather than adopt a dogmatic stance of strict non-violence. Martin Luther King Jr. was part of a black Southern Christian tradition of activism, while Malcom X became part of a Northern militant black Muslim tradition. By their later years, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X had far more similar political stances, as MLK became more radical through his accepting of riots and stance against imperialism and Malcom X adopted less of a separatist, nationalist stance.

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