Martin Luther King Jr. Versus Malcolm X


Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are prominent people in the history of America and the entire world. The two African Americans are famous for various reasons some of which include excellent leadership and the fight for civil rights. Books, articles, and magazines of history still recognize them as stars despite having died a while ago.

The legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X continue to live not only in their countries but also in other regions of the world. Both are known to be fighters who did all they could to achieve what they wanted. They made their demands known but presented them in different ways.

Their actions at times went too far leaving bad memories that most people would rather not talk about. This paper is, therefore, comparison and contrast between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Differences between Martin Luther and Malcolm X

History holds that no two great individuals could be alike regardless of their similar undertakings. Thus, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X had differences despite their common goal of fighting for the civil rights of black Americans in the United States. Martin Luther had a peaceful background and grew up in a middle-class family (Bainton 76).

In contrast, Malcolm X grew up in a hostile environment having been brought up in a poor family. Martin Luther was well educated while his counterpart Malcolm barely attended school. While Martin Luther was a Christian, Malcolm X followed the Islam faith and had a strong belief in the Islam principles. Strong relations with bishops and the clergy characterized Martin Luther’s faith in Christianity.

Also, Martin Luther was humble and avoided violence in his actions (Bainton 82). At times, he could be physically attacked, but Martin Luther never fought back physically. Malcolm X, on the other hand, believed in physical fights and did whatever he could to get his freedom back regardless of whether violence was involved or not. However, Malcolm X became nonviolent later in life after visiting Mecca in Jerusalem where he interacted with other Muslims who made him change his views.

The different ideologies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X on civil rights acts were portrayed during the Washington March in 1963 (Cone 113). It was during this March that Martin Luther King Jr. made one of his greatest life accomplishments. Martin Luther criticized racism and wanted peace among the different races in America.

Thus, when over 20,000 people participated in the Washington March to the Lincoln Memorial on 28 August 1963, Martin Luther preached peace and integration. He was later crowned for his activism. Malcolm X had a different ideology about the Washington March (Cone 113). He had the feeling that integrating the blacks and whites was not a good idea.

He instead, advocated for the segregation of black Americans and insisted that the blacks help each other to improve their living conditions. According to Malcolm, each race had to respect their race before interacting with other races. Malcolm differed with Martin Luther to the point of despising Martin’s dream of uniting the blacks and whites saying it was a nightmare and not a dream.


Both Martin Luther and Malcolm X are considered great people who fought for the rights of black Americans. They were both African Americans. Their objective was one but expressed differently. They were angry at the way the blacks were being discriminated by the whites in America and strongly fought for freedom from segregation. With that anger, they used whatever power they had to make their voice heard by the relevant people.

It is because of this that Martin Luther delivered two of his famous speeches ‘ I have a dream’ and ‘Time to break the silence,’ which were all geared towards making the voice of the black Americans heard (Hansen 103). Martin Luther preferred using speeches to woe people because he was a peaceful man.

Malcolm X also used speeches and rallies, which in most cases turned into fighting grounds because of his violent character. The rallies held by Martin Luther and Malcolm X ended up in protests. In the end, they were both assassinated on different occasions. This did not, however, stop the two leaders from fighting for the civil rights of the blacks in America.


From the above discussion, it is clear that each of the aforementioned individuals will be remembered differently because of their ideologies and actions. It is agreeable that most people remember Martin Luther King Jr. in a good way as they try to forget Malcolm X. Malcolm was violent and bold known by his quote ‘To do whatever it takes.’ This meant that he would go out of his way to get what he wanted.

He was suspicious of the whites and never trusted them, unlike Martin Luther who preached peace and integration of the blacks and whites. Despite having different opinions and expressing them differently, they both fought for the freedom of blacks in America.

Works Cited

Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand: a Life of Martin Luther. New York: Penguin, 1995. Print. Pp.70-85.

Cone, James. Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991. Print. Pp. 113.

Hansen, Daniel. The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2003. Print. Pp. 103.