The names Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. are inextricably connected with the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. However each name brings different responses in the popular conscious, with an obvious example of only one being immortalized in Washington, D.C.. It is unthinkable to consider either one of these men to have anything but the best intentions in mind for their people, nonetheless both had different approaches to the movement. I think, in a way, King saw the struggle as one over the minds and hearts of Americans to create true unity, while Malcolm X seeks to united all people of African descent around the world in order to confront globally oppressive systems of racial oppression. This manifests itself in the way they navigate the struggles of the civil rights movement and the form their leadership assumes.
The two men differed greatly in their international perspectives of the movement. It can be argued that King saw his role in the global fight against injustice in affecting change in his own country when he states, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" ("Letter from Birmingham..."). However, he was talking about his need to focus on civil rights abuses and organizing in different part of this country. It is not until he speaks out against the war in Vietnam that he makes a strong stance in international relations and in this case the connection with civil rights is the effect the war has on the population of the US and well as those in the affected areas of battle. On the other hand, Malcolm X talks directly about "our relationship with the freedom struggle of people all over the world" ("At the Audubon"). He speaks to the importance of that relationship, stating that "in order for you and me to know the nature of the struggle that you and I are involved in, we have to know not only the various ingredients involved at the local level and the national level, but also the ingredients that are involved at the international level" ("Not just an American Problem"). He talks about how in the US people of color look around and see that they are the minority. However, if they were able to look outside the boundaries of the States, they would see the great mass of people that they belong to, racially. Earlier in his career in leadership, he speaks in vague generalizations about "the white man" and "the black man," and for the need for black people from around the world to unite against a "common enemy" ("Message"). X sees all of the issues faced by people of African descent across the world as being connected and seeks to united black people everywhere, while King focuses on uniting Americans of all colors against racism.
Martin Luther King's unwavering dedication to non-violence is a cornerstone to his approach to the struggle for civil rights and reflects his commitment to America. Dr. King states that "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue" ("Letters from Birmingham"). He wanted to create "a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth" to challenge and change unjust laws and enforce just laws within the current framework of the United States ("Letters from Birmingham"). Operating inside the framework of the US becomes an important aspect of difference between the two men. Malcolm X was not interested in negotiation or compromise with the same system that started all of the trouble in the first place. While he stops short of advocating for aggressive violent action, Malcolm X states:
I don't mean go out and get violent; but at the same time you should never be nonviolent unless you run into some nonviolence. 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, and I'm not responsible for what I do. Any time you know you're…