Speech Given by Malcolm X
Though almost half a century has passed, the Civil Rights Movement remains one freshly
imprinted in not only the history books of US schools but also in the minds of countless
Americans. Albeit, American society has come quite a ways in the acceptance of the individual -
regardless of sex, age, creed or ethnicity - prejudices of different sorts are still to be found
throughout every one of the United States of America.
The Civil Rights Movement fought to overcome the racial inequalities inherent and ingrained in
the minds of America's citizens and the government which they oversaw; it was one of the most
important eras in the history of the United States of America and for that reason, its leaders and
their words are widely studied, remembered and, frequently, revered.
One such case of this remembrance is that of Malcolm X's speech "The Ballot or the
Bullet." Generally viewed as one of the top ten most significant speeches in American
history, one must wonder at what factors have contributed to the speech's longevity and implied
importance. For one, the speech was given during the height of this movement and by a greatly
influential leader of the time. Yet the speech contains merits all its own that allow it to remain
powerful long after its orator has ceased to be. The speech is filled with forcible and compelling
language that would provoke some sort of feeling in anyone who reads it. Furthermore, it utilizes
a broad spectrum of rhetorical devices which keep the audience captivated and interested.
However, perhaps most importantly of all, stands the fact that the argument Malcolm X presents
is one that could be applied universally. It is a strong, unique argument and call to arms against
any government which unjustly governs its law-abiding citizens.
"The Ballot or the Bullet" was one of many speeches which addressed a top issue in
the United States at the time, that of civil rights. For a period of over twenty years, black
Americans had actively been pursuing their civil liberties which they felt were being denied
Over this prolonged period of time, several events could be highlighted for their contribution to
the progress of the movement. In 1942, CORE was founded and held its first session in Chicago.
In 1946, President Truman created a civil rights committee which found racial discrimination to
be a national problem, and shortly thereafter, the US Supreme Court banned segregation on
interstate buses. Around 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. emerged as a figurehead for the civil
rights movement as president of the newly founded Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Five years later, as the first black student enrolled at the University of Mississippi, two were
killed and several others were injured in ensuing riots. In 1963, King delivered his "I Have
a Dream" speech and that same year, four girls were killed in the bombing of a
Birmingham Baptist Church.
These events all paved the way for Malcolm X's emergence as one of the most well-known