Civil rights strategies

Read the documents listed below as learning resources and conduct research on the internet.


Write a two-page essay of 500 words comparing the civil rights strategies of the following civil rights leader:

1. Thurgood Marshall when he worked as an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

2. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

3. Malcolm X

Make an argument on which civil rights leader you think had the best strategy to achieve social change in the United States during the early 1960s.


Your essay should have the following paragraphs:

1. An Introductory paragraph with a thesis sentence that states which civil rights leader you think had the best strategy to achieve social change in the United States in the 1960s.

2. A paragraph briefly explaining Marshall’s strategy. Use a quote from Marshall’s speech as evidence.

3. A paragraph briefly explaining King’s strategy. Use a quote from King’s letter as evidence.

4. A paragraph briefly explaining Malcolm X’s strategy. Use a quote from Malcom X’s speech as evidence.

5. A paragraph briefly explaining which leader had the best strategy. Provide evidence for a scholarly source.

6. A concluding paragraph.

7. Works Cited page or Reference page or Bibliography


Historical Context:

During the 1950s and 1960s, the three most prominent African American civil rights leaders had profoundly different views on how to make social change happen.

Marshall’s strategy harnessed the American Constitution as the primary tool to achieve civil rights. During the 1940s and 1950s, Marshall worked as an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Marshall used the court system to chip away at the separate but equal legal doctrine from the 1896 landmark U.S. Supreme Court (USSC) case Plessy v. Ferguson. When Marshall won the Brown v. Board of Education, he effectively reversed the USSC protection of racial segregation laws.

King’s strategy appealed to the American conscience as the primary tool to achieve civil rights. During the 1950s and 1960s, King used civil disobedience in the form of non-violent protests to draw media attention to the injustice of segregation in the South. The publicity of King’s protests helped push President John Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson to support an anti-segregation political agenda.

Malcolm X’s strategy proposed black separatism as the primary tool to achieve civil rights. Malcolm X rejected the integration of black and white Americans. During the early 1960s, Malcolm X argued African Americans should fight for their rights and respond to violence with violence. When Malcolm X advocated violence, he showed the Federal Government the potential alternative of not working with King.

Primary Source Evidence:

Marshall’s speech “The Legal Attack the Secure Civil Rights”

In July 1942, Marshall addressed the wartime conference of the NAACP. Marshall argued the key to civil rights can be found in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments.

(Links to an external site.)

King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (read only paragraphs 1-6)

In April 1963, the City of Birmingham, AL arrested and jailed King for violating a court ordered ban on protests within city limits. After King’s arrest, eight white clergymen in Birmingham published a criticism of King’s method of mass nonviolent protests. The clergymen called for African Americans to take a more gradual approach to ending segregation through the court system rather than through public protests. During his time in jail, King wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to publicize his views on the American Civil Rights Movement. While the impetus for King’s letter came from his desire to directly respond to the white clergymen, he used his letter to indirectly address several groups in American society. These groups include rival civil rights leaders, the African American community, moderate whites in the South, and the general American public across the nation. In his letter King argued segregation represented not only a southern problem but an American problem.

(Links to an external site.)

Malcolm X’s speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity

In June 1964, Malcolm X described his view that the American Civil Rights Movement must reject King’s nonviolence approach, and African Americans must seek civil rights by any means necessary (see II Self-Defense).

(1964) Malcolm X’s Speech at the Founding Rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity

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