What were the similarities and differences between Martin Luther King Jr.'s and Malcolm X's approaches to the civil rights struggle? To what extent did their views evolve?

Similarities in Martin Luther King's and Malcolm X's approaches to the Civil Rights struggle include an emphasis on organizing Black people in the face of a common goal and applying intense pressure on white people to implement social justice. However, they differed in that King was completely opposed to violence while Malcolm X embraced it as a solution.

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Martin Luther King and Malcolm X both saw the necessity of organizing and educating Black people to be an effective and disciplined community in the fight for civil rights and social justice.

However, the two broke sharply on the role of violence. King, following the lead of Gandhi, rejected violent...

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Martin Luther King and Malcolm X both saw the necessity of organizing and educating Black people to be an effective and disciplined community in the fight for civil rights and social justice.

However, the two broke sharply on the role of violence. King, following the lead of Gandhi, rejected violent opposition to white power, realizing this would play into white hands and justify white stereotypes about Black people as well as open the door to retaliation through violence. King believed that nonviolent protest had a moral force that violence lacked and ultimately would bring white people over to the Black cause.

In contrast, Malcolm X felt Black violence against white people was justified because of the extreme violence white people had historically used against Black people, such as in the form of lynching. He also thought that violence was all that white people understood, because he saw it as the basis of white society. He felt that the only way Black people would ever achieve justice would be to inflict pain on white people: it was too easy, he argued, for white people to make promises they never kept.

King agreed with Malcolm X that white people were much more prone to talk than to take action. Both agreed that intense pressure had to be applied on white people if Black people were ever going to achieve equality, but they differed sharply in their approach to method.

Both men's views evolved near the end of their lives. Having spent a lifetime in the racist United States, Malcolm X through of white people as devils. However, when he went on the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, near the end of his life, he was treated with dignity and respect by white people for the first time and came home believing racial reconciliation was possible. King's views of political struggle also expanded as he increasingly perceived the Black struggle as part of a larger struggle in the US to obtain rights and access to economic opportunities for all of the poor, regardless of race.

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