The Significance of the Role of Malcolm X on African American Activists Essay

A. Plan of the Investigation

To what extent was the role of Malcolm X significant in the rise of radical African American activism (1965-1968)? This investigation will assess the significance of Malcolm X’s significance in giving rise to African American activism. Malcolm X’s motives, involvement in the civil rights movement and his leadership will all be discussed in order to understand the extent of his significance. To add further understanding and provide justification a summarization of evidence will be included. Also, an evaluation of sources will allow for details which provide justification in saying that Malcolm X’s role was significant; both sources being evaluated in their origin, purpose, value and limitations.

B. Summary of Evidence

Malcolm X, initially born under the last name Malcolm Little in 1925. Later on life he adopted X, which became a symbol to represent his lost past, particularly the rejection of his “slave” name. Malcolm X was an activist and an outspoken public voice for the Black Muslim Faith who challenged the civil Rights movement and the non-violent pursuit of integration that was led by Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X was an activist who believed that non-violent acts would achieve nothing in receiving racial equality, he believed that people had to take action. He once said “it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of racial attacks.” Malcolm X was so significant to the rise of radical African American activism because he is one of the two most important and influential black leaders during the late 20th century. Malcolm X rearticulated and gave African Americans clarity as to who they are, what their problems were and how to solve them.

He did this by speaking about the black radical tradition which consisted of ideology, class and culture. And he made many African Americans energized to take action. Also, Malcolm X was an advocator of black pride which led more people to follow him and his ideas. Malcolm was such a powerful leader and activist that he gave way to some black art activists, which is interesting because art was not his main focus. Malcolm wanted blacks to learn about their roots and gain and understanding of their heritage, therefore he made it a central part of the Organization of Afro-American Unity which in turn furthered radical black art activists. Malcolm X gained this desire when he partook on a journey through North Africa and the Middle East. Malcolm’s desire for wanting blacks to understand their heritage also promoted the rise of cultural nationalism within the Black Panther Party.

C. Evaluation of Sources

Malcolm X and the Black Arts Movement by James Smethurst was published by Cambridge University Press in the year of 2010. The purpose of this source is to demonstrate how Malcolm X was deemed such a commanding figure and brought rise to Black activists, even in the arts, a subject that Malcolm X rarely spoke about. The value of this source lies within the author’s description of how Malcolm X was a leader and how he inspired many people to rise and take a stand, especially in the arts. For example: X did not touch on the subject of arts as often as his did race in his speeches. However, some Black art activist came to see him as a commanding figure. This source is limited due to its lack of detail. This source mainly gives brief description on how Malcolm X laid the foundation for different types of Black activists but does not go in depth about what he did to influence these activists.

Malcolm X: A powerful black leader who fought for human rights by Sharrod Patterson was published by the student newspaper of Winston-Salem University in the year of 2007. The purpose of this source is to identify Malcolm X’s rise to becoming a world renowned activist. The value of this source lies in the discussion of where Malcolm X started to where he ended. He started as a young boy who began to head down the wrong path, getting into drugs and involved with the wrong people but overcame that and ended up being a prominent civil rights activist. However, this source is limited due to the lack of discussion about his impact on many people and how he laid the foundation for many activist groups and organizations.

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D. Analysis

When making the final evaluation of Malcolm X’s role of significance in bringing rise to African American activism, tow aspects of his role must be evaluated. One includes his motivation and the other is what he wanted to accomplish.

Malcolm X’s motivation was his oppressed youth. When Malcolm was younger he and his family were harassed by the Ku Klux Klan which caused them to move to another part of Michigan. Sadly enough, after they moved, the racism became worse. A racist mob set his family’s home on fire and all of the white emergency responders and firefighters watched their house burn down. Shortly after this, Malcolm X’s father died and this sent his mother into a deep depression of shock and grief which eventually caused her to be submitted into a mental institution. Malcolm left home and after leaving, he became involved in drugs and crime. This became his motivation. He wanted to fight back and provide young black youth with better and more positive opportunities. However, it was not just young black youth he was advocating for, but it was all African Americans.

As an outspoken civil rights leader in the 1960s, Malcolm X wanted to encourage black power. He advocated Black Nationalism and separation form the white society.17 He argued that integration of blacks and white represented the succumbing of African Americans to white culture and values. African Americans needed to embrace their own culture and communities and be independent of the white world.

Many people embraced the ideas of Malcolm X. Many people began to see what he was advocating as true. This served as a contributing factor to the rise of African American activism. Through his radical tactics and his self- defiant demeanor, he open many gates for African Americans and led them along the path of fighting back or taking a stand. Malcolm X wanted to better the lives of blacks and open their eyes to who they are and what being an African American stood for, pride and promise. The more people who started to realize this, the more people who took action. Needless to say, Malcolm X’s role as a leader and a civil right activist, played a significant role in causing rise in African American activism.

E. Conclusion

Malcolm X played a significant role in bringing rise to African American activism. Malcolm X shed light upon the many dreadful conditions faced by the people of African descent. However, while it may be impossible to measure his impact in its entirety, it is just to say that Malcolm X helped to expose unfair practices towards African Americans which ultimately led to significant changes, changes that the legal system deemed unlawful. This drive to better African Americans made Malcolm X an extraordinary leader and gave African American new incentive. This led African Americans to begin to take further action which gave rise to activists groups such as the Black Panther Party. It is evident that Malcolm X played a significant role in giving rise to African American activism. His role is equally as significant to that of Martin Luther King Jr. or even that of Rosa Parks. And while some may call him violent or racist, others consider Malcolm X to be one of the most influential and greatest African Americans in history.

Works Cited

Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, eds., The Reader’s Companion to American History (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 1991) (accessed November 29, 2012) William W. Sales, Jr., “The Legacy of Malcolm X,” Online Publication. (accessed November 29, 2012) James Smethurst, “Malcolm X and the Black Arts Movement,” Cambridge Collection Online. (accessed November 29, 2012) Sharrod Patterson, “Malcolm X: A Powerful Black Leader Who Fought for Human Rights,” Student Newspaper of Winston-Salem University, February 19, 2007. Bio. True Story, “Malcolm X Biography,” The Biography Channel Website. (accessed November 29, 2012) Teachers’ Domain. “Malcolm X: Black Nationalism.” 18 Jun. 2004. Web. (accessed December 5, 2012)

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