Reverend Cleage was a prominent black nationalist Christian minister. He is referenced in the first line of "The Ballot or the Bullet," as one of the people whom Malcolm X is addressing.
Malcolm X begins the speech by crediting Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam from 1934-1975, with helping him find the Muslim faith.
Adam Clayton Powell
Adam Clayton Powell is mentioned as one in a list of religious leaders more famous for their work as civil rights leaders than for their religious affiliations. He was a Baptist pastor and the first African-American to be elected to Congress from New York.
Reverend Galamison is mentioned as one in a list of religious leaders more famous for their work as civil rights leaders than for their religious affiliations. He was a Presbyterian minister in Brooklyn known for his advocacy of educational reform, especially his championship of integration in schools.
Cassius Clay, or Muhammed Ali, was a professional boxer, activist, and philanthropist. He is widely recognized as one of the greatest boxers of all time. Malcolm X mentions him in relation to the inefficacy of "singing" (non-violent protest) over "swinging" (violent protest).
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th president of the United States, in power at the time of Malcolm X's speech, and the democratic presidential candidate in the 1964 election. It was under Johnson that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was eventually passed. In "The Ballot or the Bullet," Malcolm X references Lyndon B. Johnson as a powerful figure in the oppression of African-Americans. Malcolm X derides the Dixiecrat caucus under Johnson's administration for repeatedly voting against Civil Rights legislation. He also suggests that Johnson's Texas background is rooted in racism, saying "you can keep Johnson in Washington D.C., or you can send him back to his Texas cotton patch." Malcolm X cites Johnson's close friend Richard Russell, a southern Democrat who led efforts against civil rights action, as evidence that Johnson is complicit in racial oppression.
Governor Wallace refers to George Wallace, the 45th Governor of Alabama, who was known for his efforts in office to preserve segregation. He is mentioned in comparison to Governor Romney, both of whom Malcolm X condemns as oppressors.
Near the end of his speech Malcolm X mentions the famous preacher Billy Graham, a powerful figure in American Evangelism. He says Graham "preaches white nationalism."
Chief Justice Goldberg
In speaking of the injustices directed towards African-Americans, Malcolm X references Chief Justice Goldberg. He cites an incident in which Justice Goldberg decried the treatment of Jews in Russia in a plea to the United Nations. Malcolm X posits that the plights of foreign peoples are offered more attention than those of African-Americans.
Governor Romney refers to George W Romney, the 43rd Governor of Michigan. Though Romney supported desegregation, Malcolm X lumps him together with Governor Wallace to make the point that even the supposedly non-racist "North" is really part of the same racist system—that everything south of the Canadian border is "the South."
Richard "Dickey" Russell
Richard Russell was a southern Democratic Senator and the leader of southern opposition to the civil rights movement. Malcolm X claims that Russell, who is leading the filibustering against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, is best friends with President Johnson, which proves that President Johnson does not really have the interests of African-Americans at heart.
Senator Eastland refers to James Oliver Eastland, a Democratic Senator from Mississippi who opposed integration and all facets of the civil rights movement. Malcolm X invokes him as a part of questioning the argument that because President Johnson is from Texas, he can more easily deal with the South. If that's the criteria, Malcolm X says, then why not Senator Eastland? He can certainly deal with the South better than Johnson.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian Minister and arguably the most famous face of the civil rights movement until his assassination in 1968. While Malcolm X advocated for outright racial revolution, King preferred peaceful protest. This difference of opinion proved to be a divisive issue between the two men, and in the civil rights movement in general. Malcolm X invokes Martin Luther King Jr. at the start of his speech, as a religious figure who, much like himself, is known for his involvement in the civil rights struggle.
The Ballot or the Bullet Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Ballot or the Bullet is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The Ballot or the Bullet was intended to distance Malcolm X from the Nation of Islam, and one of his main goals was to connect with moderate civil rights leaders. Malcolm, however, noted his continued support of Black nationalism and self-defense,...
According to Malcolm X, the proper solution was to elevate the struggle of African Americans from one of civil rights to one of human rights. He believed this solution could be found in black economic and social separatism.