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In looking at how the actions of two of the Blount curriculum’s selected writers influenced historical change, progress, and thought I chose to focus on their respective views of race and race relations, in particular the Civil Rights Movement. I chose to write on the two diametrically opposed civil rights activists Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. In the 1960’s the African American community became increasingly active in the struggle for civil rights. Although the concept race is an arbitrary societal construct based on the color of an individual’s skin and his or her geographic origin, it has had a profound impact not only on the founding and formation of our country but also the development modern American society. King and Malcolm X are two powerful men in particular who brought the hope of acceptance and equality to African Americans in the United States. Both preached messages about Blacks having power and strength in the midst of all the hatred that surrounded them. Even though they shared the same dream of equality for their people, the tactics they implied to make those dreams a reality were very different. The background, environment and philosophy of King and Malcolm X were largely responsible for the distinctly varying responses to American racism.

The initial phase of the Civil Rights Movement began in 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white male passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. The incident was the catalyst for a major boycott of the area bus company from the Black community, which was lead by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King and his supporters continued the boycott for more than a year. As a result of his leadership skills, King gained national prominence and recognition for his exceptional oration and courage. He traveled to West Africa and India in order to better understand Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of non-violence. Following the non-violent principles of Gandhi, King ignited hope into the eyes of thousands of African Americans for equal rights. Early in his career he realized that non-violent protest was the most efficient way of achieving his goal. He stated that: "I had come to see early that the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of non-violence was one of the most potent weapons available to the Negro in his struggle for freedom." In seeking to continue and expand the non-violent struggle against discrimination, King, along with other Black ministers, set up the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. As a result of his consistent commitment to nonviolence, black college students began to launch a series of sit-ins at lunch counters and public places where segregation was existent (King 39).

The turning point in King’s career came in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. The SCLC launched a major demonstration to protest anti-Black attitudes in the South. Confrontations ensued between unarmed Black demonstrators and Birmingham police and firemen who used clubs, attack dogs, and fire hoses as a show of unnecessary force to quell the crowd. The publication of this demonstration and the incidents that ensued had profound effects across the country. It sparked protests across the country and prompted President John F. Kennedy to push for passage of new civil rights legislation.

The Birmingham incident resulted in King’s incarceration and famous “Letter from A Birmingham Jail” (83). Subsequent demonstrations culminated in the March on Washington. More than 250,000 protesters came to Washington to hear King’s most famous "I have a dream" speech. This speech embodied the spirit and moral basis behind the civil rights movement: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Hundreds of thousands of people protested with the hope of encouraging Congress to pass the civil rights bill that President Kennedy had created (King 104).

King’s influence is of unparalleled comparison. It is an apparent testament to his accomplishments and efforts that nearly every major city has a building or road dedicated to him. He was able to unite virtually an entire race to stand up and fight for equal rights. His non-violent approach, exceptional oratorical skills, and unique leadership ability took the country by storm. Many thousands came to the support King’s fight. In the face of severe opposition from Black militant groups, racist politicians, and a society full of segregation they, under King’s guidance, were able to force Congress to abolish segregation. His movement swept decades of oppression away from American society.

In the early 1960’s, in spite of his accomplishments, King began to face strong opposition from new, more militant organizations. The most formidable of these was the Nation of Islam. Although the leader of the movement was Elijah Muhammad, the man who campaigned for membership and gained popularity for the radical group was Malcolm X. He started several Muslim groups around the country and preached his revolutionary attitudes toward whites. He encouraged blacks to stand up and fight for their liberation. Malcolm X emerged on the civil rights scene as an uneducated, rough ex-convict. He advocated a militant and violent approach to gaining equal rights. Due to the tremendous growth of the Nation of Islam there is no doubt that Malcolm X had a profound impact on many minds. His message of Black Nationalism expressed the anger at the attitudes of many, seemingly complacent black living in the North. In a sense, Malcolm X said what many young activists were afraid to say. He influenced young minds that disagreed or were impatient for results from Dr. King’s tactics by rationalizing violence as a means to an end. Malcolm X said that: "It doesn't mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time, I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don't call it violence when it's self-defense, I call it intelligence." Some began to think that violence was the way to change society. However, in a decade characterized by non-violence and unity, Black militancy was overshadowed by the passive tactics of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X’s despair about life was reflected in his angry, pessimistic belief that equality is impossible because whites have no moral conscience. This bitterness and hatred toward whites partially came from Malcolm’s belief that his father was killed by the Ku Klux Klan. Malcolm believed in “by whatever means necessary” to accomplish a separate nation. Malcolm X believed that non-violence and integration was a trick by the whites to keep blacks



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