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Malcolm X Essay

During the 1960’s, the powerful speeches spoken about equality by two men about black empowerment, ultimately lead to them to their deaths. The words spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were so strong and influential, helping them gain great audiences and followers. King preached out over the “brotherhood” among races, and the importance of non-violence. Malcolm X, also advocated for the end to segregation, but emphasized the needs for blacks to become independent of the white man, and stand up for themselves. Both King and Malcolm X had similar goals in their minds, but took distinct paths to attain those goals. Both of their many speeches varied with great distinction. While the content and underlying ideas of the speeches may have different examples and ideas, they both use many common literary devices and rhetorical strategies to attain their audience’s attention. It is through Malcolm X’s use of emotion, together with the use of other strategies, that he ultimately created a more passionate influence on his audience.

The early lives that these men lived had much influence on how they would later view racism, and speak out on segregation. Martin Luther King Jr., born Micheal Luther King Jr., was raised with a middle-class family, where his mother and father stressed the importance of obtaining an education (Martin). Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, came from a place filled with fear and danger, where the “Klansmen shouted threats and warnings [about how] ‘the good old Christian white people’ were not going to stand for [his] father’s ‘spreading trouble’” (X, Malcolm and 1). Malcolm’s early childhood experiences would be there to haunt him for the rest of his life. The experiences that these men encountered at a young age, planted the seeds to how they would flourish into the voices of the oppressed African-American people, and the ways in which they would deliver their speeches. Malcolm X, was furious at the idea that whites where trying to keep blacks in their place, and were the reason why equality was still not being achieved.

From a young age, Malcolm had suffered the effects of racism, never forgetting his eighth grade teacher telling him that “[he had] to be realistic about being a nigger. A lawyer- [that was] no realistic goal for a nigger” (X, Malcolm and 38). X, an intelligent student sharing similar dreams as King of becoming a lawyer, where soon shattered, causing him to drop out of school, and turn to drugs in order to get money. After being in jail for six years, Malcolm finally turned to Allah, where he began preaching black supremacy, and the separation between blacks and whites. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most prominent “I have a Dream” speech is lucid with its use of emotion, and all­usion. King argues that African-Americans are not free according to the rights outlined in the United-States constitution.

King not only presents his argument to the African-American community, but rather to all Americans, white and black. King delivers his argument successfully through his use of ethos. Throughout the speech, King alludes to his Christian morals, speaking out on how, “one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together” (Luther King). King acknowledges the fact that the majority of his audience believes in Christianity, therefore understanding the allusion to the bible. Finally, King refers to his audience as “his people.” This implies that King sees his audience equal and also it shows that not only the black people are “his people.”

King presents his argument towards freedom, strategically placing emphasis on his moral authority. Malcolm X, flustered by King’s peaceful approach to obtaining African-American rights, wrote, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” as a direct response to King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech spoken only a month before. Like King, Malcolm appeals to the emotions of his young black audience, stirring them with anger; and simultaneously, striking fear into the minds of his white listeners. Malcolm’s goal for this speech was to persuade his audience to take action into their own hands and bring about a serious long lasting change. “The Ballot or the Bullet” begins with Malcolm’s attempt to connect with his audience. He begins by greeting both his friends and enemies speaking out, “I just can’t believe everyone in here is a friend and I don’t want to leave anybody out” (X, Malcolm. Speech). X, immediately grabs the attention of his audience by, identifying with them, also putting aside religious aspects and focusing on simply “working together and putting aside their differences to fight for their rights” (Critical).

As Malcolm continues delivering his speech, his use of repetition keeps his audience aroused with anger. X repeats, “I am not…” allowing his audience to identify with him, especially when he says that he is “not an American, but a victim of Americanism” (X, Malcolm. Speech). Here, Malcolm has fallen victim to racism. When X refers to “Americanism” he refers to things the United States is guilty of, like sexism, racism, and the power that the government has over people. In this quote, he doesn’t feel like a citizen of America anymore, although he should. He is equal to everyone else, but is treated otherwise just because he is African-American.

The strong and powerful words that these two men spoke out will always be remembered in the history of the civil rights movement. Although King is a heroine in the eyes of the movement, his methods of obtaining a change were very amicable. It was Malcolm X’s strong militant diction, and his power to stir the crowds’ emotions that helped him instill more passion in what he was arguing for. X’s approach may have arisen from his catastrophic childhood, instilling him to speak out on black supremacy, and the liberation from having the government having control over them. Nevertheless, King’s approach allowed him to gain more followers, but it was Malcolm X’s rage against the white man, that allowed him to create a more passionate audience.

Works Cited

Boyer, Paul S. “The Turbulent Sixties.” The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1990. Print.

“Biography.” Martin Luther King -. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. . “Critical Analysis: The Ballot or The Bullet.” Socyberty. Web. 02 June 2012. . Luther King, Martin. Speech. I Have a Dream. Washington D.C. 28 Aug. 1963. American Rhetoric. Web. 02 June 2012. . Malcolm X. Dir. Spike Lee. Prod. Spike Lee. By Spike Lee and Arnold Perl. Perf. Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, and Al Freeman. Warner Bros., 1992. DVD. “Martin Luther King, Jr.” SparkNotes. SparkNotes. Web. 05 June 2012. . X, Malcolm, and Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: One World/Ballantine, 1992. Print. X, Malcolm. Speech. The Ballot or the Bullet. Cory Methodist Church, Cleaveland. 3 Apr. 1964. Social Justice Speeches. Web. 02 June 2012. .

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