Posted: March 9th, 2022
Malcolm X and John Lewis had similarities and differences in their speeches. Not only did they have similarities and difference in their speeches, Malcolm X and John Lewis shared the same similarities in their strategy by wanting a revolution but had different tactics on how to conduct this revolution. The fight for freedom and the possibility that Malcolm X and John Lewis felt differently about the movement should be highlighted when examining the Movement.
Malcolm X and John Lewis speeches were similar in strategy because they both wanted African Americans to join a revolution and take charge. The only difference about joining or starting a revolution is Malcolm X wanted violence to be involved, the same way every other revolution solved their problems to obtain what they wanted (Malcolm X). They both viewed the term revolution differently than one another. John Lewis wanted to take a more peaceful approach and stated that the march will not only stay in Washington but move towards the South and through the streets of Danville, Cambridge, Birmingham, and Jackson (Lewis). In his speech, Lewis made sure to announce they will take a non-violent peaceful approach that will be filled with love and dignity, just like the demonstration they are doing now, to get their demands met unlike Malcolm X. Malcolm did not believe peaceful protest existed and John Lewis did (Malcolm X) (Lewis). Malcolm X expressed that a nonpeaceful protest was a negro revolution (Malcolm X).
Malcolm’s targeted audience was African Americans. Malcolm X did not care for the “white man,” therefore, he did not create his speech for them to “listen” to what he had to say (Malcolm X). Malcolm X believed African Americans should put their differences aside and unite to defeat the oppression caused by the white man (Malcolm X). He encouraged African Americans to stand up and revolt against those who have caused African Americans oppression and use violence to reach their goal (Malcolm X). John Lewis’ speech was for those who joined the demonstration but it was more aimed towards Congress. John Lewis wanted Congress to create more jobs and give African American’s more freedom. John Lewis wanted congress to pass the Civil Rights Act. John Lewis encouraged African Americans and others to continue to protest to reach their goal (Lewis). His speech was also focused on defeating segregation and rebuilding the South in the eyes of god and democracy (Lewis). Both men wanted to protect African Americans. Lewis said if the administration does not include title III in the bill, there is nothing that will protect children and older women from the brutality of police officers’ dogs and the fire hose as they demonstrate a peaceful protest (Lewis). Malcolm mentioned the contradicting actions in America regarding violence. He mentioned that in the eyes of America, African Americans were wrong to use violence to defend African American men, women, and children but it was ok for America to draft and send soldiers abroad to defend her using violence (Malcolm X). Both men wanted something to be done now. John Lewis said African Americans were tired of waiting and they wanted their freedom at this given moment (Lewis). Malcolm X was tired of being oppressed by the white man and wanted to start a revolution (Malcolm X).
The analysis of the speeches shows that Malcolm X and John Lewis both felt different about the movement. John Lewis wanted to use a nonaggressive approach to reach their end goals and gain their freedom. Malcolm X, on the other hand, wanted to use a more aggressive tactic by creating a revolution that used violence to bring attention to what was going on and take back their freedom. If these two figures felt different about the movement, there’s a possibility that others may feel the same. Both speeches address what it is they are fighting for and the cause of their problem. Malcolm X and John Lewis were fighting for freedom. Both men focused on the problem African Americans were facing and decided to take a stand against it by addressing the appropriate audiences.
Lewis, John. “JOHN LEWIS, ‘SPEECH AT THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON’ (28 AUGUST 1963).” Voices of Democracy, 28 Aug. 1963, https://voicesofdemocracy.umd.edu/lewis-speech-at-the-march-on-washington-speech-text/. Accessed 12 Feb. 2022.Malcolm X. “Message to Grassroots Speech.” Teaching American History, https://teachingamericanhistory.org/document/message-to-grassroots/. Accessed 12 Feb. 2022.
For this Discussion, about Modern Civil Rights Movement, I chose to dig into Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr speeches. I will achieve this goal by addressing similarities and differences in these speeches and how they reflect similarities and/or differences in strategy. I will also, address how my analysis of these speeches highlights complexities and/or nuances that need to be highlighted when examining the Movement.
The Civil Rights Movement was a critical event that was important turning point in African American History. From the 1950’s to the mid 1960’s, civil rights activists and leaders rose up across the nation to fight for equal rights and against discrimination. Even local citizens such as Rosa Parks, took a stand against segregation on public transportation. Others also participated in “sit-ins” inside diners for “whites only”. Although people expressed the need for equality, many efforts were shot down. Things began to change in the Jim Crow south when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the largest civil rights boycott against the Montgomery (https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlktempleisraelhollywood.htm), Alabama bus system. Through his charisma and commitment, Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the strongest and influential civil rights activists. Nevertheless, he was not the only one in the fight for equality.
A revolutionary Malcolm X, born May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, rose up and created the belief of Black Nationalism. Malcolm X believed in fighting the white people and creating a segregated Black community through forceful measures (https://teachingamericanhistory.org/document/message-to-grassroots/). Dr. M L King however desired to bring change by peaceful protest and reached out to all races to join the battle against segregation. Comparing their lives and ideals, both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X have the same ideas, but their methods and desires for changing things are much different. To make change through a nation, a leader has to speak out to its people with a unique philosophy that can spark ideas and change beliefs. The ideologies of both activist converged and at the same time diverged and the dream nation they wanted was also different. ML King Jr fought for equality for everyone and to end racial segregation. He wanted civil rights for everyone and for the Negros and whites to co-exist peacefully with one another. Malcolm X side, had a different angle-view on the situation. He still wanted to end the racial segregation, but he never wanted coexistent afterwards. His philosophy was that the western culture was racist and the Negros needed to form Black Nationalism. In his dream nation, the Negros would unite and develop self-dependence away from the white. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X developed their positions and philosophies as a result of their personal experience in a Jim Crow nation that legalized and institutionalized discrimination.
Upon both men experience, the nuance is displayed on their own philosophy of things where Martin Luther King was an integrationist, whose main aim was to bring about racial equality through both races mixing and working together. However, Malcolm X was a black nationalist with a firm belief in black supremacy. Both pioneers were mostly seen as opposing forces in the struggle for civil rights and against their common enemies (white people) supremacy.
Martin Luther King was known for his peaceful ideology and was often portrayed as a nonviolent insider, while Malcolm X prioritized forceful methods to acquire equality. Even though their conception diverged, they both acting to achieve the goal same and they both contributed to solve the prejudice problems of the early 20th century across the country.
Both men moving in the same direction, believed that America would become a better nation if racism was conquered and believed spiritualism can aid the nation with this process. Both men ultimately became towering icons of contemporary African-American culture and had a great influence on black Americans.
“About Malcolm X.” The Official Web Site of Malcolm X. 15 Apr. 2008 https://teachingamericanhistory.org/document/message-to-grassroots/
“Biographical Outline of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” The King Center. 2003. The King Center. 15 Apr. 2008 . https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlktempleisraelhollywood.htm
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