Language

The language used by Malcolm X in “The Ballot or the Bullet” can be described as controversial, explicit, and informal. The speaker does not abstain from using offensive words describing the American political class, or white Americans, or inciting the African-American community to violence and separatism.

The language is also very context-based, as the speaker alludes to many events, people, and organizations that are contemporary to the time of the speech and/or connected with the Civil Rights Movement: “In Jacksonville, those were teenagers, they were throwing Molotov cocktails. Negroes have never done that b…

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Choice of words

Malcolm X uses a wide range of harsh, offensive words which he often repeats and which represent attacks to the American political class, the violation of African-American rights, immigrants, or to those who promote fighting for Civil Rights in a peaceful manner. Here are a few examples: “white political crooks”, “with their trickery and their tr…

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Personal pronouns

Malcolm X often uses personal pronouns to promote division between African Americans and white Americans or the political class. It is a matter of ‘you’ versus ‘they’: “Don't let anybody tell you anything about the odds are against you. If they draft you, they send you to Korea and make you fa…

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Sentence structure

Malcolm X uses a combination of short and long sentences, which makes his speech more dynamic. Short sentences make the speech sound sharp and to the point. Furthermore, by using short sentences, the speaker makes sure the audience remembers correctly his ideas and message: “It's one or the other in …

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Tone

Malcolm X uses several different tones in his speech. He begins in a humorous, ironic way, to suggest he knows he is not liked by everyone: “…brothers and sisters, friends and enemies: I just can't believe everyone in here is a friend, and I don't want to leave anybody out.”

Throughout m…

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Anecdotes

In the speech, Malcolm X often uses stories to exemplify a point that he is making. These stories with a point are called anecdotes. For example, he talks about an African-American friend of his who entered a whites-only restaurant passing off as a foreigner, to suggests that white Americans are only prejudiced against African Americans: “A friend of mine who's …

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Propaganda

Propaganda means using biased or misleading information to promote a cause or a point of view. The bias of the speaker is noticeable when he discusses the political class and immigrants using offensive words that are meant to stir anger and frustration in the audience. Here are a couple of examples: “…Polacks are already Americans; the Italian refugees are alread…

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