Malcolm X, King: Could Twain Have Met?

By Carson, Clayborne | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 11, 1998 | Go to article overview

Malcolm X, King: Could Twain Have Met?


Carson, Clayborne, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Three decades after their deaths, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King still symbolize opposing ideological positions that divide blacks. Their clashes set the tone for internecine battles that have continued to disrupt black communities.

Which path to social justice is correct? By any means necessary? Or only through nonviolence? Integration or separation?

Spike Lee raised the issue of the contrast between the two men at the end of his film "Do the Right Thing." A photograph of the two looms silently on the screen.

But was the split between them inevitable? How incompatible were their ideas, really? Must blacks choose between their ideological legacies? Or is it possible that Malcolm X and King would have resolved their differences had they not been assassinated?

Years after their deaths, these questions continue to be relevant. As we enter the next millennium, with many black people still impoverished and the basic notion of black equality still debatable in the United States, there remains much to be learned from the relationship of these two extraordinary men.

There has been much speculation about what Malcolm X or King would have done had they lived longer, but what about the relationship they had while alive? Although the two men met only briefly, there is considerable evidence regarding their attitudes toward each other and, more significant, how those attitudes changed over time.

On July 31, 1963, less than a month before the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Malcolm X invited King and other national civil rights leaders to speak at a Muslim rally in Harlem. Although as the minister of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X assured the civil rights leaders that he would "moderate the meeting and guarantee order and courtesy for all speakers," none of the invited leaders accepted his invitation.

King did not even respond. In the midst of preparations for the Washington march, his staff may not have even brought the invitation to his attention.

Although Malcolm X had begun writing to King in 1957, he received only perfunctory replies from the civil rights leader's office. To what extent did these rebuffs add to the intensity of Malcolm X's criticisms of King's nonviolent approach?

Although some of the differences between the two surely were based on deeply held religious and political convictions, there also were common aspects of their lives that might have enabled them to resolve their differences.

Both were sons of politically active Baptist ministers who saw religion as a tool for social transformation. Both were well-informed about the relationship between the black freedom struggle and Third World liberation movements, and both were men of integrity and courage.

Yet King also was a privileged insider within the largest black denomination, while Malcolm X was a member of a small Islamic group that was isolated from the black religious mainstream. Malcolm X was not invited to the March on Washington, and he may have been bitter over being ignored by King and excluded from the inner circles of national black leadership.

Soon after the march, Malcolm X delivered one of his strongest speeches against national civil rights leaders, who he said had allowed themselves to be "used against the Negro revolution."

In his "Message to the Grass Roots" speech, delivered in Detroit on Nov. 10, 1963, he charged that the march's white financial backers had manipulated black leaders, thereby transforming a potentially militant mass protest into a "picnic, a circus."

Given Malcolm X's verbal hostility and his advocacy of racial separatism, it was not surprising that King rejected the occasional overtures from his fiercest black critic. He may have thought he had little to gain and much to lose from any association with the Nation of Islam.

Nevertheless, King could not ignore Malcolm X's increasing popularity, especially among young, politically active black people. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Malcolm X, King: Could Twain Have Met?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.