Martin Luther King is probably the most famous civil rights activists in the history of the United States and the world at large. He will be remembered for leading rallies and peaceful protests against racial discrimination and a quest for equality in America, at an age that is known to be the most liberal in American history. He is best known for his methods of calling for civil equality through non-violent means such as civil disobedience, for instance when he led the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery. He also organized several non-violent protests in various states in the United States, including the 1963bMarch on Washington where he will be remembered for delivering his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream.”
In this speech, King called for economic and civil rights and insisted on an end to racism. He based his speech on biblical excerpts as well as making reference to Emancipation Proclamation, which freed millions of slaves in 1863. King insisted that “one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free” this showed that he still believed that the black people were yet to gain total freedom. It is towards the end of the speech that he talks about his dream of an equal and free nation, where both white and Black Americans would live as equals. In general, the speech played a part in showing King’s beliefs of fighting for civil rights through peaceful methods, an ideology that some of his fellow civil rights activists disagreed with. Some of those who saw Martin Luther King’s plans as ineffective include the Black Panther Party.
The Black Panther Party was started in Oakland, 1966 by students Huey P Newton and Bobby Seale. The group soon gained root and spread across several black neighborhoods, especially in the ghettos. Unlike Martin Luther King, the Black Panther Party believed in more violent and harsh ways of fighting for civil rights. They stressed on the importance and power the power of self-defense, preferring violent protests to non-violent means and civil disobedience. This group was often linked to armed attacks which were carried out at night, as well as acts of corruption. This group gained support from those who felt that King’s soft methods were taking too long and failing to change how the black people were treated. They preferred to fight violently for their rights. “We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality.”
These radical ideas of the Black Panther Party as well as several other civil rights activists proved to be against some of the values King was trying to pass through his marches. It made it a little difficult for him to convince the people that he was the right way to go to achieve the results they wanted. Some people started getting impatient and wanted a quicker way to get their freedom, and that’s what the Black Panther Party promised them. King had already made his intentions of achieving his goal in a peaceful manner known, even through his speeches. “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
Despite these differences, there was a common unifying factor between the two ideologies, and that was their intention, or goal in the aftermath. Just like Martin Luther King, the Black Panther wanted equal rights and freedoms for African Americans. Both agreed in the need for black people to have the right to own decent housing, get a good education, an end to police brutality, racial segregation and fair trial for black people in the courts. They all wanted to live in a world where all people were treated equally regardless of their race or religion. We can, therefore, say that both Martin Luther King and the Black Panther wanted the same results, in the long run, they just had diverse methods on how to reach there.
Moses, G. (1997). Revolution of Conscience Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Philosophy of Nonviolence.
King, M. L., & Washington, J. M. (1991). A testament of hope: The essential writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr (p. 293). San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco.
Carson, C. (1970). The black panthers speak. P. S. Foner (Ed.). Da Capo Press.
Cleaver, K., & Katsiaficas, G. (2014). Liberation, imagination and the Black Panther Party: A new look at the Black Panthers and their legacy. Routledge.