Essay on Black Panthers and Malcolm X

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In the years 1865 to 1968, Malcolm X was the most significant campaigner for black civil rights in America to a fair extent. By the early 1960s, he had grown frustrated with the passive, nonviolent struggle for civil rights and feared that Blacks would eventually lose control of the civil rights movement. X was arguably most famous for his ‘Ballot or the Bullet’ speech in 1964 which best sums up his attitude towards black rights. In it, he argued that African Americans needed to stand up for themselves and either get involved in politics or arm themselves. This rather aggressive approach was very different to King’s and so the two divided the Civil Rights movement with X focussing upon de facto discrimination in the north, whilst King was more focused upon ending de jure discrimination and the Jim Crow laws. However, they eventually made up by the time the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed in Congress but who achieved the most is therefore a matter of huge debate, We also need to consider who influenced them as without these earlier black leaders, such as Garvey, King and X may not have been able to have the same impact.

Firstly, X was arguably the most important black leader in dealing with de facto discrimination. He came up with ideas for enabling African Americans to cope with the non-legal issues that stopped them from leading happy lives. For example, he encouraged them to feel proud of their color. He spoke about black people not needing to dress and talk like whites in order to be successful and even accused King of being an ‘Uncle Tom’. X’s extremist approach could have been derived from his dreadful, objectified childhood, in primary source one of his autobiography recalls the ‘nightmare night of 1929, my earliest vivid memory. I remember being suddenly snatched awake into a frightening confusion of pistol shots and shouting and smoke and flames. My father had shouted and shot at the two white men who had set the fire and were running away. Our home was burning down around us. This source is valuable for evaluating the significance of Malcolm X in relation to non-legal issues that black people faced at the time such as police brutality, racial slurs, separate schools, and separate facilities; all of which X and his family dealt with in their everyday lives. X wanted to create a cultural shift in attitudes which he did, being a prominent figure in the lead up to the Civil Rights Act of July 1964. This landmark civil rights law prohibited discrimination of race, color, gender, national origin, and religion. X’s Autobiography, published in October 1965 after his death in February, greatly influenced and set up the black power movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. The book reached black youths in particular through propagating his ideas of encouragement to them living in an extremely segregated area.

However, X was influenced by his dad, who himself was influenced by Garvey. Here, at the start of his autobiography, he is explaining how after his family now moved to Lansing, Michigan, Earl Little, Malcom’s father, continued to make speeches in favor of UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Programme), and in 1929 the family house was attacked by members of the Black Legion, a militant group that had broken away from the Ku Klux Klan. The reason why they moved from Omaha, Nebraska initially was due to the Ku Klux Klan.

Secondly, X was possibly the most important black leader as he encouraged more black people to protect themselves physically. For example, his ideas led to the creation of the 10-point program of the Black Panthers in 1966 after his death. The aims of the Black Panthers’ 10-point program were to demand decent healthcare, housing, and employment, and to end economic exploitation, they were also concerned about the safety and defense of black people, for example, point 3 states; ‘we want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people, other people of color, all oppressed people in the United States’. The Black Panther's 10-point programme was published on 15th October 1966. The Black Panther Party (BPP) was also founded on 15th October 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. Consisting of all black members, the party was one of the most radical organizations formed during the civil rights struggle for black rights in the 60’s. They were prepared to action violence to obtain a radical transformation of America. Founders of the BPP, Newton, and Seale both looked up to Malcolm X, seeing him as a role model, mainly due to X’s ability to communicate with the black working class who lived in the ghettos in the North. In response to X’s assassination in February 1995, Newton publicly stated that The Black Panther Party exists in the spirit of Malcolm’. Not only was X the reason for the Black Panthers Party existing, but his ideology, views, and methods ran throughout the party, both Malcolm and the BPP were black nationalists; believing that black people should govern themselves, black nationalism advocates the belief that black people are a nation and seeks to develop and maintain a black identity. This, amongst using self-defense mechanisms and seeking economic improvements, through the use of its own militia patrolling the black neighborhoods in uniform, directly opposing the American police whom they referred to as ‘pigs’ is how the BPP followed through with Malcolm X’s anti-American values. Overall, this makes X potentially the most important black campaigner for civil rights in America as the Black Panthers Party had a lasting effect on many black people in America from 1966. Even though the BPP never succeeded in eliminating police racism, they religiously followed the teachings of Malcolm X and fully shared his longing desire to stand up to racism, even if they were in a position of great authority, the BPP implemented his techniques and improved the lives of residents within the black working class communities before subsiding as victims to the attacks of the FBI.

Finally, X can be seen as incredibly important for making black people do things without having to rely upon the white community. For example, he encouraged more to become politicians and to stand up for themselves. This led to people such as Nelson Mandela claiming Malcolm was an inspiration. X and Mandela were very similar in their approach to the black civil rights movement, Nelson Mandela, much like Malcolm X had a hard-line, violent attitude in his younger days. Similar to X, after a long period in prison Mandela turned to peaceful approaches and forgiveness. Mandela was previously a part of the group ANC (African National Congress); a group of Black people in South Africa who wanted to unite the African people against white minority ruling. He also encouraged them to have their own religion. He saw Islam as the black religion and Christianity as the white man’s, forced upon African Americans during slavery. For example, in prison, he converted to Islam and joined the Nation of Islam which led to him becoming a spokesman for it after his release. He believed that if blacks avoided drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, and pork were faithful to their wives, and lived hard-working, religious lives then the African American Community would solve many of its problems, such as drinking, drug, and abuse issues. By doing so, black Americans did not have to

However, X was not the only black leader who achieved great things for the African-American community. King arguably achieved more in terms of legal change or getting rid of de Jure discrimination. He helped to force Congress to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act after his March on Washington.

Marcus Garvey can also be seen as hugely influential as he arguably inspired X. His Universal Negro League had been set up to encourage blacks to go back to Africa and he spoke of ‘the blacker, the better’.

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However, earlier black leaders also influenced X and so deserve credit for his achievements. Frederick Douglass, for example, was one of President Lincoln’s friends who helped persuade him to end slavery in 1865. He was a black slave who had won his freedom and so showed the African-American Community that they could win their own struggle. However, his working with a white man would not have been approved of by X in his earlier years, although he arguably saw the truth in his last years.

Furthermore, without the efforts of Booker T. Washington in helping to establish schools for blacks, X may never have received the education he got which enabled him to argue his views so eloquently.

Evidence- say when Malcolm X went to school, where, what he learned

Explain- say, however, he dropped out of school at 15. Due to a teacher telling him he should be a carpenter instead of carrying on to do law. Malcolm X told his junior high school English teacher that he wanted to be a lawyer. His teacher responded by telling Malcolm that this was an unrealistic goal. He tells Malcolm that he should think about becoming a carpenter instead. In his autobiography, Malcolm X describes this encounter as a turning point in his childhood. He dropped out of school the next year at the age of fifteen, having received the message that there was no point in a black man pursuing his education. -

Finally, Philip Randolph was key for showing X how black unity could achieve change. He encouraged African Americans to form trade unions in the inter-war period to get better working rights.

Historian John White argued that X was not such a great civil rights leader, for example white commented that ‘A frequent guest on TV and radio shows, Malcolm, by 1964, was also the second most requested speaker on college campuses- the first being the ultra-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater. In his numerous public addresses and in the Nation’s newspaper (which he founded), Muhammad Speaks, Malcolm, gaining confidence and awareness, pointed out the major issues confronting blacks: inadequate housing and high rents, inferior welfare and educational facilities, and political powerlessness. ’ Therefore this suggests that X was a significant leader of the civil rights movement because he had the ability to influence many black people as he could targeting issues that black people experienced first-hand and that would motivate them to take action as they now had a public figure that was more personable to these groups. White also suggests that X has wide access to the media platforms this would increase his impact as a civil rights leader by making it more common to civil rights leaders on television fighting for civil rights.

In addition to White's views, historian Jules Archer expressed his, and many blacks’ opinion of X, he wrote, ‘Malcolm was accused of dividing the black community, pitting those working for the betterment of blacks within white society against those seeking a separate black state. Malcolm also leveled criticism at Martin Luther King. As early as 1958, he called Martin “a professional Negro. . . His profession is being a Negro for the white man.” Later, considering the violence blacks endured peacefully in the South during King’s demonstrations, Malcolm argued, “No man can speak for Negroes love your enemy. . . There’s no Negro in his right mind today who’s going to tell Negroes to turn the other cheek.” He angered many blacks by deriding Martin as a “chump”, ridiculing the notion that the American government would ever agree.

To conclude, it is not entirely clear who contributed the most to the improved treatment of African Americans – it is a close call between X and King. King certainly did more to end the Jim Crow Laws. However, people can still experience discrimination by circumstance even if there are anti-racist laws. X certainly gave the black community a greater sense of pride and belief in itself – he gave them the encouragement to fight for their rights – without having to always have whites do it for them.

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Essay on Black Panthers and Malcolm X. (2023, December 13). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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