Circumstances

The speech “The Ballot or the Bullet” was delivered by Malcolm X on 3rd of April, 1964, at the Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, in front of about 3,000 people. The speech was delivered during the Civil Rights Movement and in the context of Malcolm X leaving the organization Nation of Islam in March.

You should note that the speaker gave another version of the speech on 12th of April, 1964 in Detroit, Michigan, which was recorded. Also, immediately after the speech, Malcolm X went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy place of Mu…

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The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968) is the name given to a series of groups, actions, and protests organized with the purpose of ending segregation between African Americans and white American in the US and of securing civil rights for African Americans. The movement’s main policies were peaceful protests and negotiations with the government. Some of its leaders are also mentioned by Malcolm X in his speech: Adam Clayton Powe…

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Black nationalism and violence

At the time of the speech, Malcolm X was redefining his position with regards to the Civil Rights Movement. Previously against it as a member of the Nation of Islam, the speech announces his support for the Civil Rights Movement but with some amendments.

The Nation of Islam was a religious organization that advocated for African Americans civil rights but was against the Civil Rights Mo…

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Other political aspects

Other domestic aspects that you should note about the context of the speech are the fact the president J.F. Kennedy was shot a few months before (which made Lyndon B. Johnson the new president) and that 1964 was an electoral year: “And what a good president we have. If he wasn't good in Texas, he sure can't be good in Washington, D.C.”

Malcolm X did not trust Johnson or the Democrats who were in power because …

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