Academic and Intellectual Excellence
As one of the most widely revered figures in American history, Martin Luther King, Jr. is lauded the world over for his intellectual prowess and for his accomplishments in the moral and socio-political arenas of human affairs. During his lifetime, he was essentially unmatched in his ability to articulate the crucial issues and concerns of humanity from a genuinely prophetic vantage point, using scriptural phraseology and imagery with an adeptness that other clergymen envied. The comprehensiveness of King's Judeo-Christian worldview was astounding, and his trenchant theological and philosophical analysis of the world and its problems customarily left his opponents speechless and at a loss to offer any counterproposal to his assessments. A highly competent intellectual as well as a bona fide revolutionary, he could artfully turn phrases and eloquently paint word pictures that inspired hope, confidence, and courageous commitment within the hearts and minds of his listeners. In this regard, he was a stellar example of what W.E.B. Du Bois referred to as the black race's Talented Tenth. King's ability to methodically think through and systematize his vast amount of learning and then call upon it to fuel the hearts and minds of millions is worthy of humanity's admiration.
Lifestyle of Nonviolence
To this day, historians, politicians, sociologists, and religionists are fascinated by the fact that King's words and example actually inspired a generation to adopt the lifestyle of being viciously struck first, only to subsequently rise to victory over those who struck them, while praying for the forgiveness of their attackers. King succeeded in persuading his followers to embrace the idea that unearned suffering is redemptive—that one can recover one's lost position and/or overtake one's opposition through suffering that is unjustly inflicted but is accepted, digested, and overcome. By embracing this tradition, King and his followers were consciously imitating the pattern established by Jesus, and the civil-rights victories that were subsequently won loomed as proof that the Living God was with these protagonists of racial integration
From New World Encyclopedia
Malcolm X (May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965) (Born Malcolm Little; Arabic name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) was a Muslim minister and a national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. He was also founder of the Muslim Mosque and of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. A self-educated, scholastically-inclined activist who arose from the depths of the black underclass' criminal element, he evolved into a hero-spokesman for those African-Americans who had long held that they and their suffering were invisible to the American mainstream.
As a fiery, socio-political critic of American Christianity's shortcomings and hypocrisies, he made the majority understand that maintaining the pretense of a just American society would be tolerated no longer. His ministry was a courageously scathing critique which held that the conventional systems of Western thought and traditional worldviews were not meeting the "race issue" challenges of the twentieth century, and people should face the fact there was an urgent need to look elsewhere for authentic solutions. In the final year of his short life, after a pilgrimage to Mecca and experience of new enlightenment, Malcolm X came to abandon his virulently anti-white, anti-Christian polemics and emerged more universal in perspective, beholding all men and women as his brothers and sisters under one God.
As the United States entered 1920, the raging debate over whether the races should be separated or integrated became more and more sharply focused within the public consciousness. The debate was hottest within the black community. The preceding decade had seen at least 527 (reported) lynchings of American blacks, including the 1918 lynching of the pregnant Mary Turner in Valdosta, Georgia. During the preceding decade, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had been incorporated in New York City, the administration of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson had made it clear that the guarantee of "fair and just treatment for all," meant "whites only." The nation had experienced no fewer than 33 major race riots and the Ku Klux Klan had received a charter from the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia. Finally, the voice of Booker T. Washington had passed away in 1915 from overwork and fatigue.
America's race crisis had reached a boiling point, and the world was witness to American Christianity's failure to deeply penetrate the culture and make real the tenets of Jesus's teachings on the "fatherhood of God" and the "brotherhood of humanity." Fifty-seven years had passed since the Emancipation Proclamation, and despite the climate of racial hatred, blacks—now 9.9 percent of the total population—were making substantial economic gains. By 1920, there were at least 74,400 blacks in business and/or business-related vocations. African-Americans in America had accumulated more than $1 billion in wealth, and the self-help drive was being led strongly by Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).
In the midst of the blazing segregation-versus-integration debate, the black masses struggled daily for the cause of economic independence, coupled with solidarity and group uplift. Into this mix of interior activism and nationalist sentiment was born Malcolm X, whose voice would later ring articulately on behalf of the voiceless, on behalf of those blacks of the side streets, back streets, and ghettos, who were most alienated from the ideals of cultural assimilation and social integration. His message would position itself as the categorical antipode to the doctrine of nonviolent protest and belief in an integrated America that characterized the ministry of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.