The Ballot or the Bullet by Malcolm X

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Essay on “The Ballot or the Bullet” by Malcolm X

In 1960’s America, the Civil Rights Movement was divided. Both sides sought change for the black community but by different means, and to different ends. They were all frustrated and fed up with the oppression with which they were forced to live. Today we especially remember two iconic figures as a representative of each side. The two great civil rights leaders of the 1960’s, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, held diametrically opposed political philosophies. King was a pacifist, in the tradition of Gandhi before him. Malcolm X was a radical, who advocated for violence. Both, however, shared a common goal—real freedom for African Americans. Malcolm X’s speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” was a direct response to Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech of a month before.
The speech is directed at Americas black population. At this point in history black people in America often belonged to the country’s lowest social- and economic group. This meant that a large part of the black community had little to no education. Malcolm X adjusted his rhetoric accordingly. In Malcolm X’s attempt to reach and address this part of society he used different types of language. His use of negative connotations is an example of the low style language which appears in his speech. He used these connotations when he for example referred to white people as “crackers”.
“The Ballot or the Bullet” is Malcolm X’s equivalent of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Its tone, unlike King’s conciliatory speech, is militant. In his speech, Malcolm X used pathos. He frequently used aggressive and rousing statements in order to spur the crowd into action.
“Let the world know how bloody his hands are. Let the world know the hypocrisy that’s practiced over here. Let it be the ballot or the bullet. Let him know it must be the…...

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