The Civil Rights Era of the 1960’s was one of the many landmarks in American History. Because it was the first time in over 300 years that African-Americans in the “Land of the Free” had finally overcome their suppression and were at last free. It wouldn’t have possible without the leadership of many Civil Rights Activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However one Civil Rights Activist stands out from the rest: Malcolm X. A convert to Islam, Malcolm X took the pilgrimage to Mecca where he witnessed fellow Muslims of various races coming together without any discrimination.
This motivated Malcolm X to take a stance in America’s Civil Rights Movement to desegregate America. Known for his more “violent” approach to ending segregation, Malcolm X was notable for his speech “The Ballot or the Bullet” in April of 1964. Malcolm X uses logical reason and his charismatic appeal to get African-Americans to take to either elect new congressmen or use violence to desegregate America. Malcolm X successfully connects to his listeners by appealing to their emotions.
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All of his listeners are descendents of former slaves and he uses this to his advantage. In his speech the “The Ballot or the Bullet” he says that his audiences “mothers and fathers invested sweat and blood” yet the audience is not allowed to get anything back. Immediately Malcolm X’s audience would have moved as they recollect the horrors their ancestor had to face and about their own struggle to freedom and how they worked hard to let their children become free and escape the hardships they faced growing up.
And now the children of the current generation are facing the same hardships, and according to Malcolm X, “There’s more segregation now”. By doing so Malcolm X builds up frustration and anger in his audience. After arousing up his audience, Malcolm X sets down his approach to the problem of segregation. He then stresses the importance of “the ballot” and “the bullet”, as he puts it, and how African-Americans need to get together and remove southern Democrats from office. He describes to them how the democrats “put the Democrats first and the Democrats put [them] last”.
Showing his audience how Democrats, who were elected on the basis of supporting desegregation, turn back on those who put them in audience, in this case the African-Americans, and do nothing to keep their promises. Here Malcolm X shows that the ballot, however strong it may be as weapon, will never work because those who are elected just turn their back on the promises they were elected for. At this point the audience would not know what to do since voting for public officials won’t work. Malcolm X comes to their rescue by showing America’s number one weakness: guerilla warfare.
Through the use of historical evidence Malcolm X not only appeals to audience’s emotions, but also shows them a path through which they can act. Malcolm proposes African-Americans to use “the bullet” and attack Uncle Sam on the ground through guerilla warfare. At this point his audience would think he is crazy and suicidal, however, Malcolm X proves that they can win. He shows that America “can’t win another war fighting on the ground”. As was the case in the 1950’s Korean War, in which UN forces invaded Korea to prevent the spread of Communism.
Because Russia had nuclear weapons pointed at the U. S. , America could not fire its missiles at Korea who was supported by Russia. Therefore America was forced to take to the ground and fight 1 on 1 with the Koreans and thus lost the war and many African-Americans as well as “white [men]” who fought for no apparent reason. Malcolm X tells his audience that America lost because it has no heart, showing how America doesn’t care for citizens and is not fearless. And therefore says that if America is to become desegregated than the black community must resort to “guerilla” tactics and scare America.