Malcolm X Vs. Martin Luther King Jr.

In the eyes of many, there are no better examples of two people standing on the opposite side of a spectrum of any sort than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X are both very important , most historical figures in the history of America, and the most iconic idols of the African American heritage. Being that these two had many different beliefs and different tactics in to spread across their message they both tried their best. Their works Letter from a Birmingham Jail and Ballot or the Bullet are both ways they tried to spread their message and how they used different strategies to do so. Both King and X use tone, philosophy, and ethos, logos, pathos to reach their goal.

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Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and Malcolm X’s The Ballot or the Bullet are two very persuasive speeches just in their different ways. X is very blunt when speaking while King speaks very patiently and peacefully. Malcolm X gets straight to the point and just comes out and says blacks deserve rights and we will get them by any means. I’m nonviolent with those who are nonviolent with me. But when you drop that violence on me, then you’ve made me go insane. This is a radical approach. King, on the other hand takes a rational approach by pushing nonviolent protest and direct action. Malcolm X uses logos, ethos, and pathos in a more persuasive way The Ballot or the Bullet than King does in Letter from Birmingham Jail because he is more assertive with his tone and will do anything to meet his goals.

King and X both use ethos pathos, and logos to showcase their beliefs, civil rights movement, and their approaches. King starts by building his credibility by addresses the clergymen as friends by saying , Fellow Clergymen I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth sending the message showed that he is no less than them and they are no better than him. Martin Luther King then proceeds to justify his cause for protest and establishes reasons for the advancement of civil rights, logos .Specifically, he does so by raising doubts about the meaning of a just law and pointing out specific examples in which laws were unfair and unjust. King says,We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. He then uses many allusions to multiple philosophers, and also religious leaders to get to the human emotions. in order to appeal to the human emotions King describes his disappointment in the church, The judgement of God is upon the church as never before. Malcolm X on the other hand uses these rhetorical devices in another way. Malcolm X has so much power as one of the leaders of the civil rights movement. He was a leader of the Nation of Islam for nearly a decade, and is a known as a Black Nationalist.

This credibility that he carries with him into his speech is immense, and it makes his audience more receptive to the arguments that he puts forth. One of the main points of Malcolm X’s speech is to urge black Americans to come together and put all other differences aside. In order to show that he is completely invested in this cause, one of the first things Malcolm X does is talk about his religion. He openly admits that he is a Muslim and that he knows how this could cause some trouble with other members of the civil rights movement who do not share his religious views. Being that he opened his speech with claiming his religion shows how he was proud of being muslim and also African American, which leads to his pathos, and logos. Malcolm X emphasizes certain words in order to make the audience feel as though they have been failed by and made a fool of by the government. In his first argument about the white man taking over black neighborhoods, Malcolm X repeats the word control. Then you wonder why where you live is always a ghetto or a slum area. And where you and I are concerned, not only do we lose it when we spend it out of the community, but the white man has got all our stores in the community tied up. He then uses logos by explaining how the African American has suffered and only they know how it feels, no one else because they do not have to live through all the hardships. to convince people to accept Black Nationalism. He argues that changing your philosophy to black nationalism allows you to take action, and he uses a very logical thought process to make this claim: Once you change your philosophy, you change your thought pattern. Both of the civil rights leaders used the rhetorical devices differently being because of their philosophy and also audience.

While MLK’s letter addresses white moderates and Malcolm X’s speech addresses members of the African American community, they each seek to improve the lives of African Americans by engendering shame in their audience. Dr. King makes his audience feel shame about not living up to both their religious and moral obligations to the movement. By invoking the biblical doctrines of Christianity and Judaism, the rhetoric of the letter makes the audience feel as though they are failing to live according to their faith. He begins to do this in the second paragraph of the letter. There, King connects himself with Christianity by revealing that he is the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and affiliated with the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Such connections are important because they remind his reader that he shares their faith. He compares his plight to the Apostle Paul, nothing Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. He also makes an analogy of his plight to that of Jesus. When addressing accusations that he is an extremist, he asks Was not Jesus an extremist in love? With these two analogies, Dr. King aligns the Civil Rights Movement with the persecution of Jesus and the goals of St. Paul. For a religious audience, such an alignment would cause them to question any reservations that they have about the movement. Therefore, it is implicit that people who disagree with Dr. King’s goals and methods are not living according to their faith. Their philosophy was very different because of their religion. Malcolm X is muslim and King is christian.

Both King and X use tone, philosophy, and ethos, logos, pathos to reach their goal. They used these to persuade the audience into looking into their civil rights and the mistreatment the African Americans lived through. The letter and speech are both strong pieces of persuasion, as i’ve mentioned before and was one of the main reasons why they were so iconic figures in the Black American history.

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Malcolm X vs. Martin Luther King Jr.. (2019, Mar 25). Retrieved January 28, 2023 , from

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