Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

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What is the difference between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X?

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These two men were both leaders in the African American community in the 1960s, but they were very different men.  They were different in their personal backgrounds, their goals (particularly before Malcolm X went on pilgrimage to Mecca), and on their attitudes about how their goals should be pursued.

These two men were from very different backgrounds.  Malcolm’s father died when Malcolm was very young.  His mother died as well.  Malcolm became a criminal and went to prison.  By contrast, King was born to a stable family.  His father was a minister.  King was a very good student and went to college and then graduate school.

The two also had different goals.  For King, the goal was racial integration.  He believed that blacks and whites should live together on an equal basis.  By contrast, Malcolm X was a black nationalist.  Before he went to Mecca, he believed that white people were actually evil.  He believed that African Americans needed to keep themselves separate from white society and improve their own lot rather than looking for acceptance from whites.

Finally, the two had different attitudes about how to pursue their goals.  King is famous for his belief in peaceful, nonviolent protest.  By contrast, Malcolm X argued that African Americans should pursue justice “by any means necessary.”  He believed that it was appropriate to meet violence with violence.

In short, these two leaders had very different backgrounds and very different ideas about what African Americans should be trying to accomplish.

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