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Malcolm X- Revolutionary Activist for Racial Equality

Updated on June 16, 2014

Malcolm X was a Powerful Public Speeker

Who Was Malcolm X?

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska.

African-American leader and prominent figure in the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X articulated concepts of race pride and black nationalism in the 1950s and '60s.

Malcolm X was a black Muslim minister, famous for his activism and public speaking for human rights and equality in the United States.

To those who admired him, Malcolm X was a courageous advocate who fought for the rights of African Americans.

Opponents of Malcolm X however accused him of preaching racism and black supremacy, all while encouraging violence in order to achieve justice.

He has been regarded as one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history and his speeches are some of the most infamous speeches in the history of African American civil rights in the United States.

Malcolm X's speech "The Ballot or the Bullet" was a powerful speech that called upon African-American people to fight for their right to vote, regardless of what it took.

Malcolm X is Regarded as One of the Most Influential People in the Fight for Racial Equality

The Ballot or the Bullet

Malcolm X’s speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet” was given in Cleveland, Ohio on April 3, 1964 at the Cory Methodist Baptist Church.

Malcolm held the speech in an effort to urge his fellow African-Americans to exercise their right to vote. Malcolm X was a confident and smart man, who carried himself with pride. His speeches were known to attract people from all over the country.

The way Malcolm X delivered his speeches and spoke to the people instilled hope in the African American people, and reassured their faith that someone strong was fighting for them.

The speech was ranked 7th on the list of the top 100 American speeches of the 20th century.

Malcolm X as a Promoter of Violence

While urging his fellow African-Americans to vote, Malcolm X also cautioned the people that if the government continued to try to prevent blacks from obtaining equality in America, it may be necessary for them to fight back.

Malcolm X was known for preaching violence as a solution to racism and inequality in America. He used strong language, hard facts and an emotional appeal to provoke his audience and encourage them to join him in his cause.

Dr. Martin Luther King once accussed Malcolm X as a great disservice to the African American people because of his emphasis on violence as a way to promote change.

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A Photograph of Malcolm X with Martin Luther King

Malcolm X the Movie

Malcolm X- A Powerful Public Speaker

During his “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech, Malcolm X attacked President Johnson and the Democratic party, imploring the African Americans to vote in hopes to sway the power in the government.

“1964 threatens to be the most explosive year America has ever witnessed. The most explosive year. Why? It's also a political year. It's the year when all of the white politicians will be back in the so-called Negro community giving you and me for some votes. The year when all of the white political crooks will be right back in your and my community with their false promises, building up our hopes for a letdown, with their trickery and their treachery, with their false promises which they don't intend to keep” (Malcolm X, 1964).

It was through this powerful type of speech that Malcolm X was able to empower so many African-Americans all across the United States- while at the same time, terrifying the white’s in power and the opponents of civil right’s equality.

Famous Malcolm X Quotes

Malcolm X is regarded as one of the most powerful public speakers of all time. Here is a list of some of his most popular quotes:

  • "Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."
  • "Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery."
  • "The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses."
  • "I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color."
  • "You don't have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being."

Do you agree that violence is sometimes necessary to bring about change?

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Malcolm X's Assassination

The power of Malcolm X’s speeches, the power of Malcolm X’s activism and the threat Malcolm X posed to the government during that turbulent time in U.S. history all led up to Malcolm X’s demise.

On the evening of February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, where Malcolm X was about to deliver a speech, three gunmen rushed the stage and shot him fifteen times at point blank range.

Malcolm X was only 39 years old when he was assassinated, but his legacy still lives on today.

The assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, not long after he gave “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech only served to prove how important Malcolm X was too the black community and the history of America as a whole.

One of Malcolm X's greatest contribution to society was highlighting the value of a truly free government and state. He did this by demonstrating the great lengths to which human beings will go to in an effort to secure their freedom.

"Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression," he stated. "Because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action."


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    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      7 years ago from Bridgewater

      That is exactly how I feel. At least he stood up for what he believed in. We could use more people like that in today's society.

    • Lea Child profile image

      Lea Child 

      7 years ago from IOWA CITY

      I have always admired Malcolm X. While I didn't always agree with what he said, I admired how he fought for what he believed. As far as I can tell, he was an honest man who genuinely wanted what was best for his people. I believe his early death was truly tragic because he was in a state of transition at that time. He had recently returned home from Mecca and it had been a powerful experience for him. It would have been interesting to see where he would have gone.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      7 years ago from Bridgewater

      So true, he was honest, hard-hitting and he was a threat, which lead to his assassination. I can't imagine what would be different had he gotten to live longer.

    • Reginald Boswell profile image

      Reginald Boswell 

      7 years ago from Huntsville, Alabama

      Awesome reflection, refreshing and always good to hear a modern day martyr of truth; from hindsight Malcolm X was in the evolutionary process of seeking higher truths when he was slain.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      7 years ago from Bridgewater

      I feel exactly the same way

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      I don't believe violence is the answer to anything, unless you're defending yourself in a life-threatening situation.

      Unfortunately, our government is still practicing trickery, treachery and false promises. It has nothing to do with race, but politics in general.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      7 years ago from Bridgewater

      Wow that is so cool Billy! I wish I could have been a part of something like this. I was actively involved in occupy wall street, but was unhappy with the lack of progress the movement created.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I was in college at this time, marching in protest. I never agreed with the violence, but I certainly understood why this man was driven to do what he did. Change had to happen. He felt this was the way to force that change.


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