While in the early 1960s, the civil rights movement gradually began to take radical forms, which was supported by the leader Malcolm X, Martin Luther King was right because he denied the violence. He insisted that only nonviolent methods would lead to equal civil rights. King followed the ideas of Gandhi and the slogans of the civil resistance of the British authorities in India. King has successfully implemented many of the political practices of Gandhism in the United States, as instead of refusing to cooperate, he called for reconciliation.
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The Civil rights movement originated in the United States in the middle of the 20th century. Even though the Civil War (1861-1865) ended 90 years before, the American authorities did not establish racial equality in America (Levy, 2019). After the end of the Civil War and the era of the Reconstruction of the South, as part of the national reconciliation policy, the southern states of the USA gradually got the opportunity to restrict the rights of African Americans (Levy, 2019). A racial segregation system came about: the white majority distanced themselves from the black community in everyday life. As a result, African Americans had their schools, shops, cafes, railroad cars, and places in public transport. Moreover, the right to vote and eligibility had a direct link to literacy and property qualification. Such social pressure provoked protests, which were growing as the standard of living and education of black people increased.
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King went down in history not only as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, but as a moral beacon inspired by the Christian values and convictions, the philosophy of nonviolence, and the social concept of equality. Martin Luther King’s speech I Have a Dream has all essential qualities inherent in the great public speakers. One of them is eloquence; the other is passion. Each piece of his statement comes from the heart of hearts. He says, “let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred” (King, 1993). His speech is meaningful, referring to historical examples.
In the second part of his speech, King ultimately moved away from the previously written text; it was an evident improvisation, repeating the same phrase I have a dream. “I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I still have a dream” (King, 1993). The significant amount of metaphors, expressions, and the use of unexpected words also characterize King’s speech. The reader can pay attention to the melodiousness of the expressions used by the speaker: “So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania” (King, 1993). Finally, the leading quality is the persuasiveness that became apparent after Martin Luther King presented it. The speech helped improve race relations in America. In particular, King’s speech convinced President Kennedy to launch a broad campaign to enact a civil rights law that put an end to state-sanctioned racial segregation across much of the United States.
Another significant figure in the civil rights movement was Malcolm X. He had an exceptional influence; he created slogans, approaches, arguments, ideas that turned out to be at the forefront of the civil rights movement. American society accuses him of radicalism, but for most of the population, he has become an embodiment of courage, an example of a politician who has made a significant contribution to the growing self-consciousness of African Americans. He argued that a nonviolent revolution did not even exist (Riche, 1994). Malcolm X categorically condemned the call to be limited only to nonviolent actions.
In his message to Grassroots, he emphasizes that a revolution is the only way to fight racial segregation, which knows no compromise, destroying everything that occurs in its way (Riche, 1994). Malcolm X possessed the ability to inflame the audience, but his influence did not center on eloquence; on the contrary, his power consisted of worldly wisdom and life experience. He spoke directly without any metaphors, except sharp and categorical expressions. “It’ll be ballots, or it’ll be bullets. It’ll be liberty, or it will be death. The only difference about this kind of death — it’ll be reciprocal. (X, 2018). Malcolm’s life was short and swift. Now he has become an almost iconic figure, the personification of uncompromising stand and honesty. In the 20th century, he became a catalyst for a variety of feelings.
Martin Luther King argues the logic of the interconnectedness, interdependence of all parts of life. He was against violent actions and preferred cooperation rather than war. He used more peaceful methods, avoiding harming others, because, in that case, he would hurt himself. All humanity belongs to a single process, and all people are brothers. The main idea was the belief that at the heart of the universe, people can see love. His speech I Have a Dream is an outstanding example of oratory; it has changed the lives of millions of American citizens. After The March on Washington in 1963, where all Americans were marching shoulder to shoulder, the USA became a completely different country.
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To sum up, the black rights movement was diverse. Despite the deaths of both leaders – the murders of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, the campaign has been developing. Their speeches and works remained a source of inspiration for numerous followers. The fight against racial segregation continued, King and Malcolm X ultimately worked for the same goal, albeit with entirely different means. They completely changed American society, and they formulated a demand for the US authorities to eliminate any discrimination against African Americans. It still matters for the USA because the country has not become less controversial than it was 50 years ago, just the nature of the contradictions has changed. Restoring civil rights solved old problems and created new ones that American society should observe and discuss.
King, M. L. (1993). I have a dream. HarperSanFrancisco.
Levy, P. B. (2019). The Civil Rights movement: A reference guide. ABC-CLIO.
Riche, R. (1994) Malcolm X – message from the Grassroots: A play in two acts. S. French.
X, M. (2018). The ballot or the bullet. (S. Starr, Ed.). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.