Malcolm X ballot or the bullet

In the early years of their participation in the Black Freedom Movement, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., expressed starkly opposing views on how radical social transformation might be best organized and realized in racially repressive social orders. For Malcolm, a Black nationalist, Blacks’ pursuit of freedom and justice was to be achieved by them alone and by “any means necessary,” even if those means involved the use of a self-defensive violence against a violent aggressor. For Martin, an integrationist, building an interracial coalition to engage in nonviolent direct action was most ideal for achieving racial justice and Black freedom: by advocating for cross-racial unity in the labor of nonviolently but routinely staging large-scale acts of civil disobedience to the established laws of a racially repressive social order, Martin believed that activists could awaken the consciences of violent aggressors and people of all races who witnessed such violent opposition to desegregation, Black enfranchisement, etc., and thereby inspire legislated social change.

In the speeches that they delivered in the final year of their lives, Malcolm and Martin both critically examined social issues interconnected with Black people’s pursuit of freedom and justice in ways that expanded their earlier critiques of systemic oppression and helped them to consider new methods of galvanizing social transformation.

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Taking into consideration Malcolm’s 1964 speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” and either Martin’s 1967

speech “A Time to Break Silence” or Martin’s 1968 speech, “I See the Promised Land” respond to the

following question: with respect to main ideas, form (i.e., African American jeremiad or not?), critiques of

the U.S. government, and methods of advocating for social change, are these speeches that Malcolm and

Martin give in the final year of their lives more similar than they are different, or more different than they

are similar? Anticipating logical counterarguments to your chosen position, analytically examine AT

LEAST 3 passages from Malcolm’s “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech and AT LEAST 3 passages from

whichever of the aforementioned speeches by Martin that you have selected for this paper.

LENGTH: 10-12 pages (no less than 10 pages, no more than 14 pages)

FONT: Times New Roman


MARGINS: 1 inch on all sides

CITATION: See MLA Handbook (7th or 8th ed.); Works Cited page is required

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