Until the last few months of his life, Malcolm X was a harsh critic of Martin Luther King’s civil rights efforts. Over and over again, Malcolm X said, “Nonviolence is the philosophy of a fool” and also “While King was having a dream, the rest of us Negroes are having a nightmare.”
How did Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. view Malcolm X?
“I know that I have often wished that he would talk less of violence, because violence is not going to solve our problem. And, in his litany of articulating the despair of the Negro without offering any positive, creative alternative, I feel that Malcolm has done himself and our people a great disservice. Fiery, demagogic oratory in the black ghettos, urging Negroes to arm themselves and prepare to engage in violence, as he has done, can reap nothing but grief.
“In the event of a violent revolution, we would be sorely outnumbered. And when it was all over, the Negro would face the same unchanged conditions, the same squalor and deprivation − the only difference being that his bitterness would be even more intense, his disenchantment even more abject. Thus, in purely practical, as well as moral terms, the American Negro has no rational alternative to nonviolence.”
“I think there is a lesson that we can all learn from this: that violence is impractical and that now, more than ever before, we must pursue the course of nonviolence to achieve a reign of justice and a rule of love in our society, and that hatred and violence must be cast into the unending limbo if we are to survive.”
“I always contended that we as a race must not seek to rise from a position of disadvantage to one of advantage, but to create a moral balance in society where democracy and brotherhood would be a reality for all men.”
(The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Edited by Clayborne Carson, Warner Books, © 1998.
It is my contention that two powerful prophets − Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X − proclaimed messages to America’s inner cities during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950’s and 60’s. Both of the prophets’ words are still echoing throughout the inner cities. One prophesied the words of life while the other spoke the words of death.
(Continued in Part 10…the full series to date can be seen here.)