Malcolm X was a radical leader in the Black Civil Rights Movement, while Emmeline Pankhurst was a militant suffragette leader in obtaining the voting right for women. Although both of them have played important roles and made significant contributions to the two movements respectively, we firmly believe that Emmeline Pankhurst was a more effective leader than Malcolm X. Our essay will mainly focus on their differences and will illustrate our argument from four perspectives, including ideology, media influence, gaining publicity, and transforming people’s idea.
As leaders, they shared something in common. In terms of their attitude, they both were radical and militant which were influenced by their background. For Malcolm X, according to what we have learned in class, he was a former salve and led a hard life in the North which made him hold a grudge against the White people. Besides he was an Islam which also influenced his behaviors. While, Emmeline Pankhurst was a well-educated and middle-class woman and realized that women are capable to vote as men. However, the suffragists made little noticeable progress for a long time which forced her to resort to a more radical way to help women gain suffrage.
Despite the similarity mentioned above, the differences shadow their effectiveness in these movements.
In terms of ideology, Malcolm X’s ideology was great shaped by his religion. Affected by Islamic doctrine, Malcolm X believed that Black people were superior to the White and he claimed that the Black should be given a particular space in America or sent back to Africa in his early period. Sanders argued that he did not expect integration with the White, which was unpractical and unrealistic because it is still a “White-dominated society” (Sanders, 2016, p. 130). Although his belief changed from extreme racist theology to “unite everyone of African descent and to promote black political, social and economic independence” later (Sanders, 2016, p. 131), he was assassinated the next year; as a consequence, he did not contribute a lot. Emmeline Pankhurst believed that women were as capable as men to vote. According to what we have learned, she wanted to pursue the political and economic equality of both genders which was a trend at that time. Women were increasingly educated and enlightened; as a result, women regarded suffrage as the symbol to attain personhood fully. An acceptable belief that represented the tide of history was a prerequisite for an effective movement. So Emmeline Pankhurst was more effective in her guiding ideology.
In terms of media influence, Pankhurst was more effective. According to the article “Emmeline Pankhurst- Suffragette” published on BBC’s site, the actions that the Suffragettes took and the bad treatment they suffered brought their cause to the media which helped them to increase support (Emmeline Pankhurst-Suffragette, 2019). Media played a significant role in the movement and she made full use of it to advertise their cause. Although many people objected to their militant actions, she succeeded in making women suffrage a hit through media and other means. However, Sanders claimed that Malcolm X gained “national and international attention” through his “inspirational speeches and sermons” and his criticism of non-violence. Besides, he himself attracted much attention after a television programme, The Hate That Hate Produced (Sanders, 2016, p.131). Preaching was his strongest weapon and his using of media was not that much. Media played an important role in both two movements, but Emmeline Pankhurst used it as a tool to gain support to women’s voting right, while Malcolm X used it to spread his “separatism”.
Emmeline Pankhurst was more effective in gaining widespread publicity than Malcolm X. Millicent Fawcett, leader of the NUWSS, argued in 1906 that what the Suffragettes had achieved during these months were more than what suffragists had done in 12 years to help women gain suffrage (Fawcett, 1906). Stewart argued that the Suffragettes opened plenty of shops, “selling a wide range of merchandise in their distinctive colors to advertise their cause” (Stewart, 2014, p. 243).The publicity meant that ordinary people increasingly carefully considered the question that whether women should have suffrage. Sanders argued that Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam encouraged ghetto-dwellers because of “its self-confidence and emphasis on racial pride and economic self-help” belief (Sanders, 2016, p. 130). But their audience was ghetto-dwellers in the North and Midwest particularly. And his belief made a sharp contrast with Martin Luther King’s which was effectively and positively practiced in the South. Moreover, their conflicts were not dealt with properly. So Emmeline Pankhurst gained more publicity positively.
The Suffragettes were more effective in transforming people’s idea into positive to this petition. In their review of the Suffragettes (Grant et al., 2011, p. 309), Emmeline Pankhurst shifted suffragettes’ concentration on the WWⅠ, and people were impressed by the contributions made by brave and wise women which helped to change contemporary people’s attitudes towards women’s ability. As for Malcom X, many followed him and took immediate and violent actions to fight for their rights. According to what we have learned, his audience only limited to the poor black people who could do little to change their current situation. And for white people who had power, they did not accept his preaching and considered it heresy. His ideas greatly contradicted with Christianity and some traditional believes of white people; as a consequence, they seldom supported him.
In conclusion, Emmeline Pankhurst was more effective in her guiding idea, using media, gaining public attention, and shifting people’s attitudes. Compared with Malcolm X’s ideology, Pankhurst’s idea was more acceptable and realistic because the pursuit of political equality became the trend. As for media influence, Malcolm X failed to make full use of them to spread his concern to the South to gain more supporters. In terms of gaining publicity, Pankhurst was more effective because the Suffragettes opened shops to advertise their cause apart from delivering speeches. For transforming people’s attitudes, Pankhurst succeeded in shifting people’s attitudes towards women through suffragettes’ contributions in WWI. There was no denying that Malcom X was “a potentially great leader” (King, 1965). However, he was less effective in the four aspects mentioned above.
- Fawcett, M. (1906) in source material from Anna
- Grant, R. G., Kay, A., Kerrigan, M. and Parker, P. (2011) History of Britain and Ireland. New York: DK Publishing.
- King, M. L. (1965) “The Nightmare of Violence”. New York Amsterdam News.
- Emmeline Pankhurst-Suffragette (2019) Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/zd8fv9q/articles/zh7kdxs (Accessed: 1 December 2019).
- Sanders, V. (2016) Civil Rights and Race Relations in the USA 1850-2009 for Edexcel. London: Hodder Education.
- Stewart, L. (2014) Diversity in Leadership. Australia: ANU Press. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13wwvj5.15 (Accessed: 1 December 2019).