Malcolm X: “The Ballot or the Bullet”

(1964)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

Much was made of Malcolm X's adherence to the theology of the Nation of Islam. Under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad, the Black Muslims developed a religion that cast the white race as an evil oppressor of the black man. Integration of the races was deemed impossible, and therefore collaboration with whites was rejected because it could only abet the white power structure. The Nation of Islam, a separatist organization, was spurned by many—even within the black community—as outside the mainstream of American life and inimical to the dreams and ambitions of African Americans. It was in this context that Malcolm X made his appeal to black congregations. He did not minimize the theological differences between Black Muslims and Christian black leaders, but as in this speech, given at the Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and sponsored by the Congress on Racial Equality, he emphasized that as people of color African Americans...

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Malcolm X (Library of Congress)

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