The Ballot or the Bullet

Background

Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam

On March 8, 1964, Malcolm X announced his separation from the Nation of Islam, a black nationalist religious organization for which he had been the spokesman for nearly a decade.[5] The Nation of Islam, which advocated on behalf of African Americans, had significant disagreements with the Civil Rights Movement. Whereas the Civil Rights Movement advocated on behalf of integration and against segregation, the Nation of Islam favored separatism. One of the goals of the Civil Rights Movement was to end disenfranchisement of African Americans, but the Nation of Islam forbade its members from participating in the political process.[6]

When he left the Nation of Islam, Malcolm declared his willingness to cooperate with the Civil Rights Movement.[5] He reassured leaders of the Civil Rights Movement that "I've forgotten everything bad that [they] have said about me, and I pray they can also forget the many bad things I've said about them."[7]

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

In June 1963, President John F. Kennedy sent Congress a civil rights bill. The bill proposed a ban on discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or national origin in jobs and public accommodations. Southern Democrats, sometimes called Dixiecrats, blocked the bill from consideration by the House of Representatives.

After Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson threw his support behind the civil rights bill. The bill was passed by the House on February 10, 1964, and sent to the Senate for consideration. Southern Democrats had promised to oppose the bill.


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