Malcolm X , a black Muslim, disagreed and believed that white racism had to be tackled with force . MLK was afraid that black violence would turn whites off Civil Rights reforms. However, many young urban blacks saw Malcolm X’s message as inspiring, even more so after his murder in 1965 .
Malcolm X was part of the Nation of Islam . It called for a total separation of black and white Americans. They rejected their ‘white’ American surnames ( ‘slave names’ ) and often replaced them with ‘X’.
Malcolm’s upbringing meant that many Black Americans could identify with him:
His father was a civil rights leader who regularly was threatened, he moved home twice before his 4 th birthday
Eventually in 1929 his home was burned down and his father was found dead on the tram tracks. The authorities said they were both accidents . His mother eventually was committed to a mental institution and he and his 7 brothers and sisters went to orphanages and family.
During his time in prison he was visited by his brother who had recently converted to the Nation of Islam
By the time he left prison in 1953 , he was a dedicated member of NOI, fighting for a separate nation , and freedom from his white oppressors. Like his father Malcolm was a charismatic speaker and moved quickly up through the ranks of NOI
The FBI were not the only ones who showed an interest in Malcolm X:
He was credited with increasing membership of NOI from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 by 1963 He created massive media interest, and in 1959 there was a week long TV special based on his life called “ The Hate That Produced Hate’
" I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood wit h me. I believe in treating people right, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn’t know how to return the treatment." Speech, Dec. 12 1964, New York City.
By 1963 though Malcolm X left the NOI , he was disillusioned with the lack of morals of the NOI’s leader.
He formed his own movement He travelled to Muslim nations and learned that integration was possible with people of other cultures But on 21 st February 1965 Malcolm X was shot 15 times whilst speaking at a meeting in New York
Why did some Black Americans turn to Malcolm X’s ideas after MLK’s death?
After the Civil Rights acts were achieved, many felt dues to the non-Violent campaigns many Black Americans thought their lives would change, but they didn’t:
The main issue was money, Black Americans could not change their situation without aid from the government. MLK recognised this and campaigned against poverty after the Civil Rights acts . The government had promised money, but was spending it on the growing problems in Vietnam instead. Many black Americans were drafted to fight in a war they felt was irrelevant to them as they didn’t have democracy in their own country
With MLK dead, and no longer available to inspire people, the words of Malcom X started to make more sense:
" If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country." Speech, Nov. 1963, New York City.