Would the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s have been different if Malcom X had led it instead of Martin Luther King? The civil rights movement in 1960

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Civil Rights Movement would have been tremendously different if it had been led by Malcolm X.  Before Malcolm X went to Mecca in April of 1964, he was a militant black nationalist who would have pushed the movement in a very different direction than King did.

Malcolm X believed that black people should gain rights on their own and should not try to work with whites.  He would not have run the sort of interracial movement that King ran.  Malcolm was also famous for saying that change should be pursued "by any means necessary."  This means that he would not have run the sort of non-violent movement that King did.

If Malcolm X had been running a much more militant movement, it is likely that the movement would not have gotten the white support that was so important in allowing the actual Civil Rights Movement to succeed.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Undoubtedly.  Martin Luther King strictly adhered to the principle of civil disobedience, breaking what he considered to be unjust segregation laws, and doing so non-violently, even if attacked.  Malcolm X was much more militant, and while he did not preach a sole response of violence to segregation, he did argue that blacks should use "any means necessary", up to and including violence.

He also believed in separatism, or the idea that blacks should not expect to ever gain equality with whites in the United States, so they should therefore carve out their own nation within the United States and declare independence. 

While Malcolm X would renounce violence later in his life, civil rights surely would have been different if his ideas were the dominant force behind the movement instead of MLK's.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Martin Luther King told his followers that if it were necessary to break an unjust law they should do so lovingly and with full knowledge of the consequences. He never spoke in anger, but only for the dream of an America that could be, and which is fast coming to fruition. (In all frankness, I'm not sure we are there yet.) The militancy of Malcolm X frightened me. I am old enough to remember his comments on television and the news. He preached a militancy which played into the hands of white supremacist groups, and did far more harm for the equality of African Americans than good. It troubles me that in the 40 years since his death, he has been transfigured into something of a prophet. Had he led the Civil Rights movement, my guess is that it would be now where it was in the 1960's.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Absolutely, it would have been different. Martin Luther King, Jr. was very special. He was an excellent speaker, but people also trusted him. He was passionate, but he also advocated a non-violent and hopeful approach to civil rights, which was desperately needed in those volatile times. Even people who disagree with the civil rights movement respected Dr. King. If anyone had an opportunity to build bridges, it was King. The civil rights movement was bloody. With Malcolm X at the helm, it would have been bloodier. He was a divisive figure, not a coalition builder. He was much more likely to generate fear than support in the general public.
Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Absolutely!!!  The two men, even on the most basic of levels and although they have the same basic goal (civil rights), differ in extraordinary ways in regards to the process.  Martin Luther King, Jr.:  an icon in the execution of peaceful protest.  Malcom X: supporter of violence to promote the cause.  We study this difference even in English class (even apart from history, I mean) in order to highlight these differences.  As we finish this unit, I am always awed yet again by everything Martin Luther King, Jr. has written on the subject on race relations.  Truly a man to emulate and idolize!

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We need to recognise that Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were radically different in terms of their beliefs and philosophy. One of the most important differences between them was the way in which Malcolm X at least implicitly supported violence as an acceptable form of protesting against injustice, whereas Martin Luther King famously adopted the non-violent resistance methods of resistance from Ghandi and his struggles against the British empire. We would have seen a very different Civil Rights Movement with probably a much bloodier outcome.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As other posts have mentioned, Malcolm X's approach would have caused an enormous rise in violence and bloodshed compared with that during the leadership of Dr. King. Additionally, Malcolm X would never have had the diversified support that King maintained from non-black elements of society.

krcavnar | Student

If Malcolm X had lead the civil rights movement rather than Martin Luther King most likely the end result would not have been the same.  Any mainstream violence by the protesters would have given additional fuel to the already defensive white supremacy groups in the south, primarily the Ku Klux Klan.  Violent protests would have sustained the “angry dangerous black man” myth that had surrounded much of the south for decades.   Regardless of Malcolm X’s philosophy after his trip to Mecca, his previous assertion that African Americans had a right to use arms to defend themselves against violence, he led many U.S. citizens to believe he advocated violence.  It is likely that the entire movement could have seen an end without any significant advances for the African American population.