The development of the civil right movement of Africna American people is traditionally associated with the names of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass, who made a significant contribution to the awakening of the civil conscience of African Americans. At the same time, their work helped improve the position of African Americans dramatically since they constantly appealed to the necessity of changes that would eliminate any sort of discrimination and provide African Americans with really equal opportunities.
Traditionally, Martin Luther King is believed to be one of the major figures in the civil rights movement of African Americans. The remarkable feature of his appeal to the social change and his action play is based on peaceful means.
To put it more precisely, his plan of actions implies the improvement and change of the existing legislation in order to eliminate discrimination of African American people. In his speech I have a Dream, he intentionally begins each of his major ideas with the phrase I have a dream’. In such a way, he appeals to the moral and emotional sphere of all people regardless race and ethnic origin. He represents his vision of the future society as an ideal society based on humanistic principles which are universal to all people. It is necessary to underline that his action plan is focused on the civil movement and legal struggle of African Americans for their rights and he rejects violent methods of the struggle.
In stark contrast to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X stands on a more radical ground. In his works such as The Ballot or the Bullet he sounds more aggressive than M.L. King who rather chooses the way of appeasing of the entire American society as he attempts to appeal to the conscious and sense of justice of the dominant groups, i.e. white Americans. Malcolm X insists that all means may be used to achieve social justice and improvement of the position of African Americans. He underlines that the effects justify ends and this is why he admits that the use of active social resistance, including the use of violence. In this respect, his statement be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hands on you, send him to the cemetery (Malcomlm X 1994) seems to be a kind of modification of King’s views, which attempted to create a positive image of African Americans, while Malcolm X rather appeals to gain respect using all possible means.
As for Frederick Douglass, his basic ideas may be found in his Slave Narrative where he expressed his attitude to the slavery and its terrors. Moreover, on the basis of his personal experience he had managed to convey to readers the problem of slavery from within and not surprisingly that, while reading this work, a reader could really feel as if he/she were in slave’s shoes. To a certain extent, this work, actually written after the abolishment of slavery, could be a program document which practically summarizes his views and beliefs and which may be viewed as the appeal to eliminate any discrimination of African Americans. In fact, the abolishment of slavery in his work should be viewed in larger sense as an appeal to social change in order to gain equality for all people.
He strongly believed that slavery is absolutely unacceptable and should be abolished and it is quite natural that in this work, as well as in many others, he severely criticized the institution of slavery. In this respect, it is very important that the author revealed his conviction that slavery was much more serious problem than it was traditionally believed. Notably, in his works he underlined that slavery was institutionalized through politics, law, religion, and social practices. For instance, he states that the religion of the South is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes a justifier of the most appalling barbarity, a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds, and a dark shelter under which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection (Douglass 1998:406). Similarly to Malcolm X he also admits the possibility of social disobedience but he does not seem to be as radical as Malcolm X.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that the positions of M.L. King, Malcolm X and F. Douglass vary in the ways of the achievement of the equality of African Americans and other racial groups in the US but this final goal make them all united as the fighters for civil rights of African Americans. At the same time, King’s position seems to be more acceptable and more convincing for the modern society since it is based on the principles of justice and real democracy which should not be exclusive. This is why it is possible to estimate that his way of representing of his views is the most effective as it unites all Americans regardless their race in an attempt to make their life better.