Malcolm X and Civil Rights

9 September 2016

The civil rights movement of the 1950s brought to light the atrocities and trials that the African Americans were put through on a daily basis. Malcolm X, an influential speaker and proponent of this movement, invigorates all people to stand up for justice and fight for proper civil rights. Through his rhetorical choices of sentence length, vivid imagery, symbolism and historical examples, X develops the three persuasive appeals, pathos, ethos and logos. Malcolm X attacks the white man for the hardships that the blacks of the United States have to endure on a daily basis.

His words invigorate and evoke not only the African Americans but people of all races to stand up against the white man and fight for proper civil rights for blacks. The exclusions of blacks from the history books infuriated Malcolm X, this was the beginning of his journey to becoming the proponent of civil rights. As a devout follower of Elijah Muhammad, X took to heart all of Eljah’s teaching which “stressed how history had been ‘whitened’ — when white men had written history books, the black man had simply been left out” (X 229).

Malcolm X and Civil Rights Essay Example

One can assume that Malcolm X would take this offense seriously and would take on the same ideas that the white man had made history his own without any recognition of the “black man” (229). With Malcolm X accepting and embracing this philosophy, his use of diction, explicitly differentiating between the black and white man, appeals to the readers sense of ethos. Due to X’s diction in the passage, the reader now understands the basis of X’s beliefs and philosophies. Not only that, but the audience can also understand the reasons behind some of X’s choices and actions.

X soon became interested in black culture and history, but the vivid imagery of gore and pure degradation may not have been what he anticipated. Many of the certain events that X describes have a great amount of detail and imagery, which plays a major factor in developing emotions with the reader. X alludes to a book he read and describes, in detail, the absolute atrocities of slavery. X being disgusted by these acts would be no less than an understatement. What he read left such a lasting impression on him that “[He] never will forget how shocked [he] was when [he] began reading about slavery’s total horror” (X 230).

This further shows how much X is against slavery and shows another source in which X draws his motivation to fight for civil rights. With the vivid imagery of the passage, X appeals to the readers emotion, pathos. by tugging at With the combination of what he describes as a “total horror” (230), this is further intensifies what he “will never forget” (230), causing the audience to now expect the absolute worst. One can even go out on a limb and state that this quote implements diction to further bring his point across and play with the emotions of the reader.

X also “read descriptions of atrocities, saw those illustrations of black slave women tied up and flogged with whips; of black mothers watching their babies being dragged off, never to be seen by their others again; of dogs after slaves, and of the fugitive slave catchers, evil white men with whips and clubs and chains and guns” (X 230). This, like the previous quote, tugs at the readers emotional strings through vivid imagery, appealing to their emotions, pathos with the reader.

With descriptions of women being whipped, dogs chasing after runaway slaves and babies being stripped from their mother’s arms, it effectively involves the readers emotions, bringing about an extremely negative connotation to the word “slavery. “But, something that may not come to mind automatically is also at play here, and that is Malcolm X’s use of sentence length. The quote above is all one sentence, pieced together with commas and semi colons. X used this technique to the effect of each different description of an event happening would compound on each other.

This, could also be viewed as a symbol in this piece of literature. With the description of the punishments continuous and non-stop, X is also symbolizing that this is how the slaves were treated day in and day out, with non-stop and continuous punishment. With the culminating punishments, the reader may literally feel beaten down as well, allowing their emotions to connect with what Malcolm is re-iterating, the constant mistreatment of blacks throughout history. Malcolm’s reference to the Indians of South Asia utilizes imagery to, again, play with the reader’s emotional hearstrings, pathos.

The imagery and gushing of the readers emotions come from how the Indians were subject to “unnecessary ruthless human carnage” (231). With this reference, the reader feels sorrow for those Indians, which X draws out to the extent to which he relates their plight with the African American’s current plight. Unfortunately, there may be skeptics questioning whether X’s battle is blindly based upon emotion or a personal vendetta against the white man. To their surprise, there is some logical thinking behind it, that thinking based on proof substantial enough that X believes his efforts will not be in vain.

This is why X alludes to the historical examples of the Chinese and Indians who were severely oppressed, similarly to that of the blacks in America, by the British, their rendition of the “white man. ” He offers the example of the Indians of South Asia and a significant event “in 1857, some of the desperate people of India finally mutinied — and, excepting the African slave trade, nowhere has history recorded any more unnecessary ruthless human carnage than the British suppression of the nonwhite Indian people” (X 231).

Here, X supports his ideas, appealing to the logic of the reader, logos, by offering a historical example in which the people described were in the same situation that he and the African Americans currently are in. By informing the African Americans that some of the Indians were brave enough to mutiny and fight for their civil rights, it hints that some of his black brethren should do the same. He may also be hoping that they realize also realize that there were only a small amount of Indians to mutiny.

But, with the staggering number of oppressed and angry African Americans, the sheer number of them could factor into the outcome of their fight and potentially sway some of them who are on the fence about whether or not to join. There is more to this quote as it also develops and utilizes imagery to, again, play with the reader’s emotional hearstrings, pathos. The imagery and gushing of the readers emotions come from how the Indians were subject to “unnecessary ruthless human carnage” (231).

With this reference, the reader feels sorrow for those Indians, which X draws out to the extent to which he relates their plight with the African American’s current plight. Lastly, X drives his point home to the reader with a contemporary, counter-example to the “American Dream” whilst referencing the African American’s plight. X finishes strong by banding together his brothers bringing to mind the “Four hundred years of black blood and sweat invested here in America, and the white man still has the black man begging for what every immigrant fresh off the ship can take for granted the minute he walks down the gangplank” ( 232).

His mentioning of the duration in which he and his people have had to suffer to attempt to attain simple civil rights will infuriate the African Americans due to the basic fact that even though they have been working for 400 years, while any person immigrating to the US in search of the “American Dream” gains those same rights at the time when the walk off the gangplank (pathos). The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was the pinnacle of a revolutionary generation. With influential speakers rising up, rallying and uniting peoples of all races to fight for proper rights. A Homemade Education” chronicles the beginnings of a major influential speaker, Malcolm X, and effectively uses his rhetorical choices of sentence length, vivid imagery, symbolism and relevant historical examples to develop the three rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos and logos. His effective uses of these devices invigorates the reader to take action for what is wrong in the world, but most importantly, during the 1950s and 1960s, to join him in his cause to end the atrocities of discrimination, racism and to fight for the civil rights of the blacks in America.

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