Martin filled with white only signs and

Martin Luther King Jr was born in 1929 in Atlanta,
Georgia. He was the son of Martin Luther King who was the most influential
Baptist Preachers in America. To start with King Jr rebelled at following
father’s footsteps and instead seemed destined for the ministry like his
grandfather. Under slavery the ministry had been open to African-Americans as
it was the most desirable black path to security and prestige. Martin grew up
in the South which was blasted and filled with white only signs and faced a lot
of rejection as a ‘neggro’ child. This therefore had an impact on his social
life, as he had limited freedom due to the racial restrictions. Later he became
aware of how determined his father was to resist racism. King Jr’s mother
believed that “One man can make a difference” and this encouraged King Jr to
take advantage of his given talents even though he was defined as inferior due
to the colour of his skin. This caused him to be determined to defy the
prejudicial laws of the south; he combined the teachings of Ghandi and Jesus to
break the prejudicial laws as he believed that this could be a weapon to
transform the hearts of white Americans. He was an individual that drew people
from the first time they met by his eloquence, sincerity and moral structure.
Martin believed that the nonviolent method would be powerful enough to enforce
desegregation. The case of Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka (1954) was one
of the main foundations that pushed the Civil Rights Movement, and helped
establish the injustice of “separate-but-equal” within education and other
services, it was in fact unequal.  May 17th
1954 was the day that the Supreme Court decided that Jim Crow’s “separate but
equal law” should be abolished within the education system as it defies the law
of the 14th Amendment. Warren stated that “in the field of public education the
doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place,” as segregated schools are
“inherently unequal.” This angered the majority of the white population in the
south and caused white violence against the blacks. Even though desegregation
within the education system was passed as a law, it was only verbally enforced
rather than by actions. The Supreme Court did not know how the enforce
integration within schools. There was still an indifference between
African-Americans and white Americans, on major example is Little Rock; where the
state National Guard prevented black students from attending high school in
Little Rock in 1957. However President Eisenhower retaliated to this racial
marginalisation by enforcing federal troops to escort and protect nine students
who are also known as the “Little Rock Nine” enter Central High School under
armed guard protection. On the contrary, they were still terrorised by the
raging white crowd whilst being escorted into the school. This shows that there
was still no social change for African-Americans even though by law they were
‘equal’ to white Americans.

Therefore Martin Luther King joined the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and he was determined
to use his influence, eloquence and dedication to non-violence to strive for
change in the South. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a White passenger
on a Montgomery bus this resulted in her arrest. Activists were angered by this
and decided to retaliate through the Montgomery Boycott (1955). Martin was
elected president of the Montgomery improvement association to develop and lead
the boycott. Dexter Avenue Church was used for protests.  On the 5th of December the
Montgomery busses started the ‘peaceful protests’ and 18,000 African-Americans
began to ride on the buses daily. Martin decided to keep the buses running
until American federal government met the requirements of the African-American
population, which was to integrate busses, hire coloured bus drivers, and
enforce a first come first serve policy with seats rather that prioritise the
whites. The Boycott had a economic strain on bus owners and businesses  lasted 381 days and the government finally, in
1956 the Supreme Court ruled that it bus segregation policy on Montgomery buses
was unconstitutional.  This was a success
for Martin as his non-violent tragedy had successfully worked and he now became
the voice of many African-Americans that were hungry for social change.  In 1959, King went on a five week tour in
India and met Ghandi’s relatives.  During
his visit he was stunned by the similarities between India’s mistreatment of
the Untouchable caste and of African-Americans in America, this encouraged him
to fight for racial harmony and equality. When he returned he was eager to use
the non-violent strategy to improve the lives of African-Americans. Though his
protests in Georgia (1961-62) were unsuccessful, Martin decided not to give up
but find alternatives to strengthen his techniques.

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Later in 1963, martin
decided to challenge himself and target Birmingham, Alabama which was the most segregated
area. King used non-violent methods of sit-ins, boycotts and marches to fight
for desegregation and equality for African-Americans. As a result, King was imprisoned
for his participation in Birmingham (1963), he wrote the letter in his cell
‘The Letter from Birmingham Jail’ where he defended his direct non-violent
actions where as the authorities used violence to separate the protests, even
if it resulted in brutal fatalities. Despite his
defence he was criticised by White clergymen as they regarded his actions for justice
as disobedient. After kings release later that year he participated in The
March on Washington (1963). 250,000 people gathered at Lincoln memorial to
highlight the injustice that African- Americans faced regarding jobs and how
limited their ‘freedom’ was after emancipation. Martin delivered his ‘I Have A
Dream’ speech which moved many; he was now seen as an icon of many that faced
racial injustice within America which was seen as the ‘land of the free’. Eventually
congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ending segregation within housing
and public facilities. At the age of 35, King won the Nobel Prize and was
deemed at a charismatic leader for both White and African-Americans that
believed in social change and that one day America will be safe for all races. This
wasn’t the end of Martin’s battle for African- American and in Selma (1964) he campaigned
for the Voting Rights Act in Selma. Before Martin’s involvement only 2% of
African-Americans were registered to vote, King’s involvement resulted in the desegregation
of the Voting Rights Act which eradicated the barriers that African-Americans
faced. He moved to Chicago’s West side of black ghetto, where he tried to
battle the economic injustice that African-Americans faced. Martin found it
difficult to unite people of Chicago and enforce it non-violence strategy as he
was seen as an outsider despite his position as a charismatic leader. The people
of Chicago sided with the more militant approach of Malcolm X and believed in ‘Black
Power’. King’s battle for equality and racial harmony consequently cost him his
life, and on April 4th 1968 he was assassinated in Memphis at a
Motel by James Earl Ray who was one of the White supremacists that believed in
White Power and disagreed with the views of King. Due to the assassination of
King, there was a huge wave of riots across America as a way of mourning the
death of their charismatic leader.

Malcolm Little was born in 1925 in Little Omaha,
Nebraska. He grew up with acceptance to violence as his mother used to beat
him. Malcolm’s father supported Marcus Gavey’s view of Separatism and
Nationalism, his father died in 1931 which left his widowed mother unable to
cope with the poverty that the family faced. This caused her to become
depressed which resulted in her being put in an insane asylum in 1939. Malcolm
left school full of resentment, he was very intellectually competent enough to
fulfil his dreams of becoming a lawyer but one of his teacher made him realise
his disillusionment by telling him that “he should forget his dreams of
becoming a lawyer as its ‘unrealistic for a nigger’ ” In his autobiography,
Malcolm defined his foster parents as ‘quite patronising’. In 1941 he moved to
Boston also known as a ‘Black Ghetto’ area, where he took the traditional low
paying jobs for African-Americans as a shoe shiner and a railroad waiter. He
later then turned to the illegitimate side and began selling drugs, pimping and
burgling which consequently resulted in a 10 year prison sentence. Whilst being
incarcerated,  Malcolm joined the NOI
also known as Nation of Islam  which was
a religious organisation what started in 1930 that aimed to improve the lives
of African-Americans merging both Islamic and non- Islamic beliefs to strive
for change.  The Islamic organisation,
taught Malcolm that ‘white men are the devil’ he stated that “This was a
perfect echo of his life long experience”. After leaving prison he changed his
slave given name ‘Little’ to ‘X’.

Now known as Malcolm X, he began his political career
shortly after joining the Nation of Islam, there view was that Black people
were better off living separately from the Whites rather than living in an
integrated society. His position within the NOI organisation rapidly rose and
he recruited many members from Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia and New York.  He became a minister of Temple 7 in Harlem in
1954. X attracted both national and international attention, as he was
attempting to help rise the social position of African-Americans in America. He
contrasted the view of King, and believed that Blacks should defend themselves
by any means necessary even if it means violence. Malcolm x always criticised
the non- violent strategy that Martin Luther King enforced. In 1963 he parted
from the Nation of Islam, which resulted in Elijah Muhammad refusing him to
participate in Birmingham (1963). Eventually he began to reject the racist
theology of the Islamic organisation and established an organisation of
Afro-American, which aimed to unite all African Americans and promote
political, social and economic independence of African-Americans which was a
similar view to King’s. In 1964 Malcolm moved towards socialism because of how
appalled he was the economic inequality that African-Americans faced. He was an
important figure of Black Power in the 1960’s; he was seen as a role model,
inspiration and an icon for the black disconnected population that reside in
ghetto areas. Also he played a huge part in the alienation of the ‘white
America’ which pushed aside white superiority and helped enforce equality.

Malcolm X strived to upgrade the lives of
African-Americans using his position and his publicity to alert members of the
public and society the oppression that African-Americans faced in their home.
He used sermons, speeches and writing. He aimed to encourage All Americans to
acknowledge the racial problems within America and how African-Americans were
with exploited and subordinated within society. 
In 1966 the SNCC called for black power and it was mainly influenced by
Malcolm this shows the impact that he had on the African-American population. However, when the New York
Times ran a poll of who was doing the best work for blacks Malcolm was
distraught to find out that Martin Luther king was chose by 75% of the
population and him only 6%. In his autobiography he stated “some of history’s
greatest leaders never were recognized until they were safely in the ground”.
Malcolm knew that his work did not please any one and that there will be
consequences for his participation in fighting for the freedom of
African-Americans. Be believed that him and Martin shared the same goal of
fighting to eradicate inequality but used separate tactics.

In his autobiography
The Autobiography of Malcolm x he stated “I am only facing the facts when I
know that any day, or any night, could bring me death. Malcolm knew that he
would have to pay with his life to liberate America from racial violence and
improve the social status of African-Americans. Eventually, he was assassinated
in 1965 by Nation of Islam gunman. Malcolm’s assassination showed that The
Civil Rights groups lacked unity instead of collaborating to fight for racial
justice they began to fight each other. Black Muslim mosques in Harlem which is
a back communal area were set on fire by some of Malcolm’s followers.  After his death the media such as the New
York Times defined him as an ‘extraordinary and twisted man’ and believed that
he used his gifts for evil purposes. In addition, the Time magazine stated that
his ‘gospel was hatred’. Despite being labelled as a ‘martyr’ by the media
after his death, Malcolm’s social influence still remained strong amongst the
black population that followed him. The Black Panther Party (1966) supports
this as it showed that individualist like Huey Newton and Bobby Seale were
determined to carry on the work or Martin and help the black working – class
and improve living conditions for them. He still remains a key figure within
the lives of African-Americans even after his death. It is shown in Spike Lee’s
film