Malcolm X’s Legendary Speech: “The Ballot or the Bullet”

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In his speech, The Ballot or the Bullet, Malcolm X challenges African Americans to practice black nationalism and become more active in their pursuit of equal rights by means of cooperation or violence.

Born May 19, 1925 Earl and Louise Little had given birth to a baby boy named Malcolm Little, the fourth child of eight, who would later go on to change his last name to X, to symbolize that his true African name had been lost. Malcolm looked highly of his father, … a preacher who was also an active member of the local chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and avid supporter of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey (Biography.com Editors). From his fathers involvement and status in the civil rights activism movements, Malcolm and his family suffered many attacks and threats from white supremacy groups including the Ku Klux Klan. Supremacists burned his home to flames as a child and killed his father, leaving his mother mentally scarred and unstable, which lead to her arrival in an insane asylum, separating her children into foster homes. At the tender age of 13, Malcolm was kicked out of school and sent to a juvenile detention home, later attending Mason Junior High School where he was elected class president by his predominantly white classmates (Biography.com Editors). As well as Malcolm did academically in school, it all came to a stop for him when his school teacher told a heart-wrenching comment that would stick with him forever, …his aspirations of being a lawyer were ‘no realistic goal for a nigger’… It made him feel that there was no place in the white world for a career-oriented black man, no matter how smart he was (Rodgers). Malcolm dropped out of school in the eighth grade at the age of 15.

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Jobless, a young Malcolm turned to the criminal underworld, and got involved with drugs and theft, which in turn supported him with a lavish lifestyle, until he was caught at the age of 21 charged with larceny. While in prison, X educated himself by reading every book he could get his hands on, making him even more educated and intelligent than he had already proven to be. His newfound knowledge and frequent visits from siblings lead him to make the decision to convert to the Nation of Islam, like most of his brothers and siblings had already done. Malcolm had soon became a minister of a few temples, and preached to the followers of this religious movement that they had the power to fight off segregationist ideals and form their own independent black nation, with or without violence. Malcolm X repeatedly asserted that, there has never been a nonviolent revolution??¦ imploring Black people to take the fight beyond civil rights and expand it to human rights (Daniels).

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