Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were very influential civil rights advocates during the nineteen-fifties and nineteen-sixties, and continue to have an influence on people today. However, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X have quite different legacies, of which are based on quite different philosophies and tactics. To understand why Dr. King and Malcolm X had drastically different thoughts and approaches to civil rights in the United States, their lives must also be looked at — as their lives leading up to their leadership were drastically different.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. Being born to a religious family, he eventually attended a seminary and became a minister, much like his father. However, during his childhood, he was weary of religion and was more interested in having a festive social life. Even so, his life was very sheltered, and subsequently quaint. Such a peaceful childhood was quite possibly the reason for his peaceful approach to protesting, along with his belief that all men are equal in God’s eyes.
Malcolm X had a very different, and much more troubled childhood. Born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, Little was very quick to see the horrible impact of racism in America. His father, Earl, was a minister and civil rights advocate, and thus a very likely target of white supremacists. In fact, the conditions for the Little family were so horrible in Omaha, Nebraska that they moved to East Lansing, Michigan, in the hope things would improve. However, things took a sharp turn for the worse in Michigan, and this was proved in 1929. In 1929, fire was set to the Little’s house, and firefighters came and did nothing to stop the ensuing flames. The horror culminated in 1931 when Earl Little, Malcolm’s father, was discovered dead. In all likelihood, Earl Little was murdered; however, it was ruled a suicide, thus avoiding anyone being punished. Also, by declaring Earl’s death a suicide, the Little family did not receive his life insurance policy.
This event was tragic for the Little family. Malcolm’s mother was so traumatized that when she was admitted to a mental institution in 1937, she spent the rest of her life there. Because of this, Malcolm moved in with a friend of his family. Up until 1939, Malcolm was a very successful student (much like Martin Luther King, Jr.). This changed when he had a conversation with his English teacher.
When asked what Malcolm wanted to be when he grew up, he said a lawyer. Although this never happened, he did become a very influential figure, which may have still happened had he been a lawyer. However, the response he received was not great — in fact, it was horrible. The teacher replied that such an occupation is unreasonable for a black person, and thus he should aim for a job as a laborer, such as a carpenter. Discouraged, Malcolm began to slack in school, and eventually dropped out at the age of fifteen, unlike Martin...