Was Martin Luther King Jr’s or Malcolm X’s Doctrines a Better Course of Action for African Americans?

To decide this simple yet very complexed question we shall discuss each man and their thoughts and ideas. While both men fought and paved the way for civil rights not just for themselves but for generations to come they each had different ways of doing so. Although which of them had a more effective way of doing so is still undecided. Looking at the supporting evidence in this essay will help us make that decision. They had similar beliefs in regards to civil rights even though their actions to achieve those right differed in many ways. Both men were also deeply influenced by their religion. Although this is a similarity they each practiced different religions. They also both subsequently gave their lives to the greater cause of equal rights and freedom when they were assassinated. Although I have the utmost respect for both of these great men I personally believe Martin Luther king Jr’s doctrine was best.

On the day April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the Letter from Birmingham Jail. It was and still is often widely regarded to as the most important written document of the civil rights era. This letter was written as an open letter as a response to the eight white Alabama clergymen who had criticized him. While King was sitting in jail a guard had smuggled him a newspaper where he read their letter about him which was published in the paper. The ministers had stated that King’s protests were unwise and untimely. Although they did not deny the social injustices faced by African Americans but implied that the battle should be fought in the courts and not the streets. They also expressed a fear that the civil rights campaign as a whole would become a cause of violence. An intriguing aspect of the letter is that although it was directed towards only 8 men it had gained a much larger audience. This may have been in part that King was very articulate with his words and could paint pictures and reach the people’s emotions.

Only a couple years later on October 29, 1965 The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published. It was written in part by Malcolm X himself with the help of his co author Alex Haley who wrote based on a series of interviews she conducted. Personally what I find so interesting about this book is how through major milestones in his life the change it brought to him as a person is so transparent. This can be seen by how he started off with a very tough life as a child from the death a his father through his time as a young adult. At this time he was deeply involved and influenced by crime as a way of life. He committed a plethora of crimes including but not limited to drug dealing, gambling, prostitution, racketeering, and robbery. Inevitably in 1946 when he was 20 years old he was arrested for burglary and in the end this way of life led to his arrest where he was sentenced to between eight to ten years in a Massachusetts state prison. Most people would look at this as a bad thing but ultimately it was a very important changing point in his life. To pass the time while he was in prison he read a lot and advanced his education and he also learned about Islam. In 1952 he converted to Islam and also joined the Nation of Islam while still in prison and was eventually released after serving approximately six and a half years. The Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad helped shape his philosophy and outlook on life in many ways but this later changed. He departed on his pilgrimage to Mecca and while there he had a change of thought which prompted him leaving the Nation of Islam and conversion to more orthodox Sunni Islam.

Now to begin to answer the ultimate question of this essay we must first take a more in depths look into their beliefs. Malcolm X carried with him more of a black nationalist point of view and didn’t think integration was possible or desirable. Through this he was very involved in his community to better it and subsequently build it alongside the Nation of Islam. They supported establishment of more black owned businesses, owned farmland, and built Mosques. With such deep involvement in communities doing things like charity and teaching they would gain many recruits and further advance the movement. Although he did a lot of good for many people and the civil rights movement he later denounced his anti integration outlook after seeing people of all races, ethnicities, and nations so peaceful towards each other during his pilgrimage to Mecca. From the beginning Martin Luther King supported this idea of integration as represented in his famous I Have a Dream Speech. It is amazing to think that someone who had influenced so many people had his own influences. Some of his influences were first and foremost Christianity particularly anabaptism and the Indian leader Mohandas “”Mahatma Gandhi. Without a doubt these influences in part helped sculpt his beliefs and teachings as a leader himself. He was a great believer in nonviolence and integration as the best way to reach a better future as a nation. In my opinion because of this his doctrine was a better course of action for African Americans and the civil rights movement. King and his beliefs were long before his time and are still very useful in today’s society as we look towards an even brighter future for the world.

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