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Malcolm X And The Black Panthers History Essay

The Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s brought about the desegregation of schools, the dissolution of Jim Crow laws and consequently equal citizenship of blacks and minorities. This paper centers on the role played by Malcolm X and the Black Panthers in the Civil Rights movement and whether or not their individual actions affected the goals of the movement. In analyzing the actions of Malcolm X and those of the Black Panthers, conclusions can be made on whether they played a momentous role in the promotion of Black Nationalism at the time and if these actions of advocating Black Nationalism helped the goals of the movement. To determine this, the role the Nation of Islam played in developing the ideals and radical tactics of Malcolm X and how the involvement of the Black Panthers in the Black Power movement affected their tactics and goals will be examined.

In the 1950s the African- American Civil Rights movement began attempting to outlaw racial discrimination against African Americans. There were several civil rights leaders that rose to lead in the fight to restoring suffrage in Southern states. Martin Luther King Jr. was giving his famous speech “I have a Dream” and leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person and was arrested and W.E.B Du Bois became the head of the NAACP. Malcolm X, on the other hand, had a different approach to the fight against African American discrimination.

In the mid 1940's, Malcolm X along with a group of associates in Boston began a series of burglaries targeting the residences of wealthy white families. Malcolm X, along with a white women whom he had been consorting off and on for years and a couple of other friends, formed an interracial burglary ring which they operated out of an apartment in Harvard Square. Malcolm X was eventually caught trying to recover stolen jewelry from a pawn shop. The store owner turned evidence over to the state and Malcolm received a ten year sentence at the age of 20. The time he spent in prison changed him as a man when he encountered the Nation of Islam and joined as one of their members. After his parole in 1952, Malcolm X became the Nation of Islam’s leader and chief spokesman. The Nation of Islam believed in a back to Africa approach in which they wanted to exile all African Americans form the white man because as long as they white man was in existence, the African Americans could not prosper. After tension with Elijah Muhammad, the head of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm left the Nation and became a Sunni Muslim. Malcolm X pushed for a Black Nationalist movement rather than silent protest or sit ins.

Although they were both widely know civil rights activists, the views of Malcolm X and those of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. differed greatly, mainly in the fact that Dr. King used non-violent protest. One of his most famous acts of nonviolent protests was the Montgomery Bus Boycott in which African Americans and several civil rights leaders including Dr. King refused to use the Montgomery bus system because of the discrimination shown by the buses.

Along with all the civil rights activists, several civil rights groups arouse such as the Black Panther Party.The Black Panther Party was founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966. They aroused four in several people along with hope, misunderstanding, pride, and vilification. They wanted to end robbery by the white man of the Black Community and immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people.. All these civil rights activists and groups show the change being brought about at the time and how African Americans were fighting to have equal rights.

For such investigation, two sources contributed immensely to the research. The first source is the book In Search of the Black Panther Party by Jama Lazerow and Yohuru R. Williams. Jama Lazerow is a professor of history with specialties in early American social and labor history, African-American history, and post-World War II America and teaches “Black Power and the Black Panther Party” at Brandeis University. Dr. Yohuru R. Williams is an associate professor in African American history at Fairfield University and coeditor of the book In Search of the Black Panther Party. The book In Search of the Black Panther Party gives an in-depth analysis on the Black Panther Party and the events that transpired during the Black Power movement and also has interviews with former Black Panthers about certain topics. The purpose of this book is to analyze the actions of the Black Panthers during the 1960s and 1970s and also analyzes the Black Panther Party itself. Some value this book had was the interviews with former Black Panthers because it helped in understanding what the Black Panthers wanted and made it more reliable than other sources. On the other hand, a limitation of In Search of the Black Panther Party was even though the book had some interviews with members of the Black Panther Party, the entire book itself was not published by the Black Panther Party.

Another source by author Michael Eric Dyson titled Making Malcolm: the Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X contributed immensely. Michael Eric Dyson is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University and a widely know scholar. The purpose of Making Malcolm: the Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X is to analyze selected writings by and about Malcolm X, compare Malcolm to such figures as Martin Luther King and Louis Farrakhan, and discuss his influence on young African American males. This helped to gather background information on Malcolm X and compare his actions to other civil rights leaders at the time. The value in the book was that it gave writings from Malcolm X which helps compare his own writings and his own beliefs about the civil rights movement and other civil rights leaders. The limitations of the book were the author limits himself to only analyzing the actions of Malcolm X which made him stand out as a great leader and civil rights activists and does not analyze Malcolm X as a whole including his side that opposes the author’s argument.

The Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s was an era in which African Americans stood up for their rights and demanded to be judged not by the color of their skin but by the contents of their heart. Since the early birth of America, racism has been its biggest shadow that has subverted the countries fullest potential and destroyed countless dreams as well as lives but yet America has failed to acknowledge this deficiency. Many believe it was Malcolm X who finally had redefined the discourse of race in America. Malcolm X stressed that the issue was not civil rights but human rights. He believed that Blacks were victims of a system of domination and exploitation that was national, structural, and most importantly intentional. Many view Malcolm X as one of the greatest civil rights leaders of all times because he would “tell it like it is.” Although many critics praise the actions of Malcolm X and his ability to unite the Black community, others believe differently. Some characterize Malcolm as a “bold, outspoken, ignorant man of no occupation after he gave up pimping, gambling, and dope selling to follow Mr. Muhammad.” Others view Malcolm X as a traitor to Blacks and even to America itself.

The Black Panther Party was also widely known across the Nation and even in different parts of the Globe. They were made famous by their Black Power movement and concept of self defense. The Black Panthers were not afraid to use force when necessary and would easily fend off any attacking man of any color. This ideal made the Black Panthers feared, many believed the Black Panthers was just a gang of radicals who carried around guns and caused havoc every where they went . Even though the rules of the party clearly stated to no guns should be used unless it is of vital importance, the Black Panthers always carried firearms to any meetings or riots and they were not afraid to use them. They believed that Blacks must seclude themselves from the white man since it would be the only way they could live in peace. This belief advocated their “back to Africa” approach in which they stressed that all blacks return to Africa to live amongst themselves and without the presence of the white man. The party saw the white man as the devil and all this contributed to the BPP idea of Black Nationalism. They wanted Blacks to unite to overcome the white man and too finally have black self-determination and no longer rely on white society and along with their vision of Black Nationalism they were able to destablish racial hierarchies.

These two forces in the fight for freedom during the civil rights movement, although some believe differently, played a crucial role in the outcome of the movement. Both Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party united the black man and gave them a sense of belonging. They both increased Black Nationalism in the U.S. at the time, which contributed to Blacks uniting in masses to fight for a cause which can only be won in unity. Both were well known and although many may question them by accusing Malcolm X of being a fraud, and the Black Panther Party as being a gang, they were still able to let the white man know of their presence and how they were not going to stop until they reached their goal. The goals of the BPP were simple; they wanted full employment for Blacks, an end to robbery by the white man of the Black community and most importantly they wanted freedom. When the civil rights movement was complete the Blacks had achieved their goal of freedom as well as having more jobs than before. The Black Panthers were able to achieve several of their goals which accounts for their success as a civil right organization.

It was through the institution of Black Nationalism, and the advocating of self-defense that Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party were able to influence the outcome of the Civil Rights movement. The Black Panther Party used Malcolm X’s ideas to impact the outcomes of the movement and have a lasting effect. Their impact was much greater than Malcolm X’s due to the short span of time that he was involved in the movement that stemmed from his assassination in 1968. By using Malcolm X’s ideas of Black Nationalism, and self defense and expanding upon them, the Black Panther Party was able to rally up minority groups and fight for the common cause of gaining independence, and equality from the whites. It was through this newfound unity, and ideology that blacks were able to rise up and succeed.


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