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Monika Perry
Professor Padgett
ENGL 101
01 November 2015
Message to the Grass Roots
Malcolm X delivered a speech Message to the Grass Roots at the Northern Negro
Grass Roots Leadership Conference on November 10th, 1963 in Detroit Michigan. Malcolms
speech focused on the difference between the Black Revolution and the Negro Revolution
and emphasized the common experience of all African Americans regardless of their religious
and political beliefs. What made Malcolms speech so remarkable was how extreme it was in
comparison to other Civil Rights crusaders. As a result of his radical approach and blunt
statements, and even the use of repetition, he caught the attention of negro citizens all across
America. Malcolms childhood experiences, influence of other leaders during the sixties, and The
Nation of Islam impacted the Message to the Grass Roots speech and the powerful tone in
which it was delivered.
Malcolm Xs childhood had a significant impact on his opinions presented in his speech
and certainly shaped his views not only in his speech but during the Civil Rights movement in
general. Malcolm was raised and practically inherited his views on white supremacy. Malcolm
was born to Earl Little, an avid supporter of the Black Nationalist leader, Marcus Garvey, and
civil rights activist who prompted death threats from the white supremacist organization, The Ku
Klux Klan (The Autobiography of Malcolm X). He was constantly urging blacks to take control
of their lives. Malcolms father, Earl, and his actions forced the family to relocate twice before
Malcolms fourth birthday due to a constant stream of threats. His father ended up dying and his

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mother ended up institutionalized forcing Malcolm and his seven siblings to be split up among
foster homes and orphanages all across the country (The Autobiography of Malcolm X). All of
these events in his childhood contributed to his radical views about the Civil Rights movement
and support of blacks coming together to share a common enemy: the white person. In his speech
he states, you catch hell because you're a black man. You catch hell, all of us catch hell, for the
same reason (Message to the Grass Roots). Malcolm began to formulate his extremist views and
ideas for a revolution that were obvious in his speech on blacks and whites at such a young age.
All because of who his parents were and their involvements throughout his childhood.
From the beginning of his speech Malcolm challenged the popular Civil Rights
movement ideas and certainly the other active leaders involved. Malcolms idea seemed to be on
the opposite end of the spectrum from another influential civil rights activist, Martin Luther king
Junior. King was against violence and wanted all races to come together for the hatred of
violence and for both to be put to a halt (The Civil Rights Movement). Malcolm on the other
hand believed integration would destroy the black and white man. He claimed Kings famous I
Have A Dream speech was not a dreambut a nightmare (The Civil Rights Movement).
However, King and Malcolm wanted to achieve the same thingfreedom and equality for
African Americans, except the means to achieve those rights were different. Malcolm X
acknowledged Kings approach and even said Dr. King wants the same thing I wantfreedom!
However, Malcolm wanted it to be known his approach was going to be different. He claimed the
way they will achieve equality will be by any means necessary (Message to the Grass Roots).
Throughout Message to the Grass Roots readers can distinguish Malcolms attempt to show his
contrasting plan of action from not just Martin Luther King Jr., but other Civil Rights activists as
well. He repeatedly used words such as revolution, negro, and white to enhance his

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argument. He wanted to make sure society knew he was going to take a different approach and
tackle issues the way he believed would be effective, by a revolution.
In addition to his childhood experiences and the influence of other activists, Malcolms
speech was also shaped by The Nation of Islam, a religious organization that provoked
controversy while promoting black pride and self reliance. They preached adherence to a strict
moral code, or set of rules, and reliance on other African Americans (The Civil Rights
Movement). Their moral code entailed reading the Koran and accepting Mohammed as their
chief prophet. Similar to Malcolm X, integration was not a goa for the Nation of Islam. Rather,
the Nation of Islam wanted blacks to set up their own schools, churches, and support networks.
In 1963, Malcolm became the groups national spokesman. His words began to inspire many
blacks and helped him gain power as a result of his idea of unity for blacks. In his speech he
describes the idea of these people who came together didn't have nuclear weapons, they didn't
have jet planes, they didn't have all of the heavy armaments that the white man has, but they had
unity (Message to the Grass Roots). All of the concepts of race pride and black nationalism
came about in his speech and were directly influenced by his time serving for The Nation of
Islam. Black nationalism is the advocacy of separate national status for black people especially
in the US. The influence of the organization reflected through Malcolm X as a critic of American
society during the sixties.
Several factors influenced Malcolm Xs speech, Message to the Grass Roots, and
helped him achieve his ultimate goal of making his strong feelings on black civil rights known to
the public. Malcolms childhood beginning with harassment from white supremacist groups
affected him and his decisions for the rest of his life. Malcoms personal views challenged other
influential leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and his vision of a racially integrated society.

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His active participation in The Nation of Islam also shaped his feelings on integrating society and
other prevalent racial issues. A combination of all of these factors made him a key spokesman for
blacks during the civil rights movement and helped make his speech Message to the Grass
Roots that much more powerful and extreme and helped leave a mark in history.

Works Cited
The Autobiography of Malcolm X." Malcolm X Biography.
http://www.biography.com/people/malcolm-x-9396195. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.
The Civil Rights Movement: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X." The Civil Rights
Movement: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/civil-rights-movement/resources/civilrights-movement-king-and-malcolm-x. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.
X, Malcolm. "Message to Grassroots by Malcolm X." TeachingAmericanHistory.org -- Free
Seminars and Summer Institutes for Social Studies Teachers. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.