Two leaders, one cause

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X just met once, during the debate for the approval of the Civil Rights Law in 1964 (Archivo)

Martin Luther King and Malcolm X had very different opinions on how to fight for the rights of black people

In the mid-twentieth century, at the height of racial segregation, the fight for equality in the United States was led by two men: Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

Both fought for black civil rights, but believed in very different ways to achieving equality.

Martin Luther King Jr. was the son and the grandson of reverends, he himself studied theology and became pastor of the Baptist Church. He believed in the pacifist way and defended that the struggle of black people should be fought with non-violent actions.

King was insulted, attacked and even arrested for his ideas, but he always preached Christian values, such as love and brotherhood. He defended the coexistence between blacks and whites, whom he considered equally necessary in the struggle for equality.

Malcolm X was also a priest and an activist, but his ideas were more radical. He felt that the black population should rebel against the domination of the whites, whom they accused of having committed terrible crimes against the black.

Reasons to fight for equality

Malcolm Little (his real name) had a tough childhood because of racial segregation. The Little family had been threatened by racist groups, their house had been burned and were forced to leave to another city. Malcolm’s father, involved in the struggle for the rights of black workers, was killed when Malcolm was only six years old.

At the age of 20, Malcolm ended up in jail for committing several robberies. There he made contact with the Nation of Islam, an extremist group that defended that blacks had their own culture and civilization, a nation without the whites.

As a member of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X believed that blacks were superior to whites and had to defend themselves against white attacks. Like Martin Luther King, he was charming and great speaker, which is why his speeches would gather crowds.

Malcolm X was also very critical of the US government, because he believed its system was unfair that only served the white powerful.

However, because of his harsh comments against white people, his detractors accused him of being a racist, quite the opposite of what Martin Luther King’s movement was pursuing.

Malcolm X believed that defending the rights of Afro-Americans meant fighting agains the inequalities of an unfair system (Getty)

During his last years, Malcolm X went for a less radical approach to defend the rights of the Afro-American population. He left the Nation of Islam movement because he wanted to join forces with other organizations and leaders fighting for civil rights.

At the same time, Martin Luther King was also influenced by the figure of Malcolm X, who was increasingly concerned about the inequalities that affected the American population. King also had his say against the Vietnam War.

The two most important leaders of black activism in the United States only met once: on March 26, 1964 in the United States Senate, while the Civil Rights Law was debated, which would end prohibiting discrimination based on race.

Malcolm X was murdered on 21 February 1965 by 3 members of the Nation of Islam, who did not agree with the turn his new ideas had taken. 3 years later, on  4 April 1968, Martin Luther King was murdered by a group of White racists.

Both died at the same age, 39, while preaching the ideals of equality and justice.

Translated by Chaplin’s Languages | Find out more in Junior Report



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