The Black Lives Matter movement and the sideline protests by professional football players reflect that pressing racial issues continue to confront our society today. As these protests develop, it becomes more important than ever that people are aware of different protest methods and the historical background and results of these methods. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement are explicit examples of racial protesters with contrasting methods and social backgrounds. The primary influences on King are Christian morality and the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, while much of the work of Elijah Muhammad is reflected in the work of X. Throughout this study, I will show how their different sources of inspiration helped shape their ideas and methods. Along with this, I will explore how the backgrounds and social interactions of these Civil Rights leaders influenced the stances they took in their protests.

On one hand, Elijah Muhammad's method of protest was greatly influenced by his background as a slave descendant. This bitterness towards whites ultimately hindered him in accomplishing major strides in race equality. This is because Muhammad lacked the influence, resources, and power of the white people, and was ultimately unable to fight “eye for an eye.” In contrast, Gandhi's acts of civil disobedience displayed his composure and toughness against his oppressors, and proved effective for a group that could not match its oppressor’s resources. He showed that he was willing to face adversity and struggle to the greatest extent in a fight for freedom. This method was carried out successfully by King who made major strides in defeating racism. King demonstrated that the humble fight will earn the ultimate reward. In this I.S. I attempt to identify the advantages and disadvantages of passive and aggressive responses to injustice, respectively. If a local activist is looking for a way to effectively protest a racial issue in his or her community, this study may inform that activist on a suitable protest method and also help them understand the historical roots of racial protests.

Before analyzing social interactions within different protests, I will draw comparisons of X and King by looking at specific speeches they gave throughout the Civil Rights Movement. After examining the language used by these leaders, I will provide examples of protests along with relevant statistical information of the success of these protest methods in recent years. After analyzing this information, I will use social movement theory to explain protests through a sociological perspective.


Kardulias, Nick


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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