Martin v. Malcolm: Democracy, Nonviolence, Manhood

31 Pages Posted: 9 May 2012

See all articles by John M. Kang

John M. Kang

University of New Mexico - School of Law

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 11, 2012


It seemed almost scripted, how Martin Luther King and Malcolm X existed at the same time and perfectly symbolized, respectively, the arguments for peaceful resistance and violent struggle as means for political change. King had urged his followers to bestow Christian love on white racists who abused them. Malcolm memorably asserted that blacks should seek any means necessary to achieve justice.

By sifting through their words, we may gain a better idea about why someone would choose nonviolence over violence (or vice versa). Through them, we also may understand better how personal life experiences, rather than formal study in ethics or philosophy, are responsible for shaping a person’s conception of democracy. Specifically, I suggest that King’s and Malcolm’s familial upbringing and economic circumstances profoundly shaped their worldviews and political proscriptions. My purpose for venturing into their personal lives is not to indulge a bleak voyeurism but to outline which types of individuals might be drawn to which kinds of arguments for democratic change.

Keywords: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, political violence, nonviolent resistance, civil disobedience

Suggested Citation

Kang, John M., Martin v. Malcolm: Democracy, Nonviolence, Manhood (April 11, 2012). West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 114, No. 937, 2012, Available at SSRN:

John M. Kang (Contact Author)

University of New Mexico - School of Law ( email )

1117 Stanford, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87131
United States


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