Another Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X grew up in different
environments. King was raised in a comfortable middle-class
family where education was stressed. On the other hand,
Malcolm X came from and underprivileged home. He was a
self-taught man who received little schooling and rose to
greatness on his own intelligence and determination. Martin
Luther King was born into a family whose name in Atlanta
was well established. Despite segregation, Martin Luther
King’s parents ensured that their child was secure and
happy. Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925 and was
raised in a completely different atmosphere than King, an
atmosphere of fear and anger where the seeds of bitterness
were planted. The burning of his house by the Klu Klux Klan
resulted in the murder of his father. His mother later suffered
a nervous breakdown and his family was split up. He was
haunted by this early nightmare for most of his life. From
then on, he was driven by hatred and a desire for revenge.
The early backgrounds of Malcolm X and Martin Luther
King were largely responsible for the distinct different
responses to American racism. Both men ultimately became
towering icons of contemporary African-American culture
and had a great influence on black Americans. However,
King had a more positive attitude than Malcolm X, believing
that through peaceful demonstrations and arguments, blacks
will be able to someday achieve full equality with whites.
Malcolm X’s despair about life was reflected in his angry,
pessimistic belief that equality is impossible because whites
have no moral conscience. King basically adopted on an
integrationalist philosophy, whereby he felt that blacks and
whites should be united and live together in peace. Malcolm
X, however, promoted nationalist and separatist doctrines.
For most of his life, he believed that only through revolution
and force could blacks attain their rightful place in society.
Both X and King spread their message through powerful,
hard-hitting speeches. Nevertheless, their intentions were
delivered in different styles and purposes. “King was
basically a peaceful leader who urged non-violence to his
followers. He travelled about the country giving speeches
that inspired black and white listeners to work together for
racial harmony.” (pg. 135, Martin Luther King Jr. and the
Freedom Movement) Malcolm X, for the most part,
believed that non-violence and integration was a trick by the
whites to keep blacks in their places. He was furious at
white racism and encouraged his followers through his
speeches to rise up and protest against their white enemies.
After Malcolm X broke away from Elijah Mohammed, this
change is reflected in his more moderate speeches. Malcolm
X and Martin Luther King’s childhoods had powerful
influences on the men and their speeches. Malcolm X was
brought up in an atmosphere of violence. During his
childhood, Malcolm X suffered not only from abuse by
whites, but also from domestic violence. His father beat his
mother and both of them abused their children. His mother
was forced to raise eight children during the depression.
After his mother had a mental breakdown, the children were
all placed in foster homes. Malcolm X’s resentment was
increased as he suffered through the ravages of integrated
schooling. Although an intelligent student who shared the
dream of being a lawyer with Martin Luther King, Malcolm
X’s anger and disillusionment caused him to drop out of
school. He started to use cocaine and set up a burglary ring
to support his expensive habit. Malcolm X’s hostility and
promotion of violence as a way of getting change was well
established in his childhood. Martin Luther King lived in an
entirely different environment. He was a smart student and
skipped two grades before entering an ivy league college at
only the age of 15. He was the class valedictorian with an A
average. King paraded his graduation present in a new green
Chevrolet before his fellow graduates. He was raised in the
perfect environment where dreams and love were generated.
King and X’s childhoods are “a study in polarity.” (pg. 254,
Reflecting Black) Whereas, Malcolm X was raised in
nightmarish conditions. King’s home was almost dream-like.
He was raised in a comfortable middle-class home where
strong values natured his sense of self-worth. Sure, many
have admired Malcolm X and Martin Luther King for the
way that they preached. “Both King and Malcolm X
promoted self-knowledge and respect for one’s history and
culture as the basis for unity.” (pg. 253, Reflecting Black.)
Other than the fact that they were similar in some ways, they
also had many differences that people admired, both in belief
and speech. Malcolm X, in many ways, was known to many
as an extremist. For most of the time that he spent as an
Islamic minister, he preached about separatism between
blacks