The Civil Rights Movement is one of the most well known struggles for African American Freedom in the 1960’s.
This movement, carried out by African Americans disputed racism, social separation, voting rights, and, most importantly, basic civil and economic liberties for African Americans. During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, Martin Luther King Jr. and James Baldwin were two of the most powerful and influential public figures during a period of racial inequality in America. While both figures strongly presented their arguments regarding black lives, inequality and how to successfully make a change in the eyes of the white person. Martin Luther King Jr’s speech to end racism in 1963 proved to be more impactful and efficacious than James Baldwin’s novel, “The Fire Next Time”. In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr presented his “I Have A Dream” speech to 250,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In “I Have A Dream”, King passionately argued that every person is created equal from birth and should be treated as such. One of the most powerful and key components in his speech is his, “Now is the time” statements.
In his speech, King repetitively argues “Now is the time” for people of color to take action. “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children”(Martin Luther King Jr.). King asserts “Now is the time” for African Americans to fight for their rights to social and economic equality that each and every person deserves. King believes the real change will come from nonviolent resistance. This is one of the most crucial components of his speech because, rather than telling African Americans to wait and accept the way they are treated, King believes it’s time to act now. Regardless of police brutality and imprisonment due to resistance, African Americans should not stop resisting until each person of color, race and gender is perceived as equal. King’s plan to keep resisting is more impactful because authentic change does not come from waiting. Authentic change comes from taking action and resisting the racial separation, resisting the discrimination, and resisting unequal rights because of the color of a person’s skin.
In “I Have A Dream”, King uses the following metaphor, “In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check….It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”(“I Have A Dream”). This metaphor is significantly essential to his argument because he states that people of color received a socially injustice “bad check” – such as someone selling an item and the check declined after item has already been taken.
The bad check in which King referring to is the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The metaphor asserts that the United States has a social and economical unpaid debt to African Americans and must make good on their promises which were guaranteed in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. King refers to these precedents as “bad checks” because the Declaration of Independence stated all men are created equal and there are certain unalienable rights that governments should never violate. The Constitution of the United States was meant to protect an individual’s freedom. While these enactments were in place, African Americans still found themselves victims of racism, social injustice, unable to vote, suffered police brutality, and were often killed or imprisoned for resisting the white man. King’s bad check metaphor is one of his most strong arguments because he outlines the path to how African Americans should have been treated following on the laws which had already been in place in result to the Constitution and Declaration of independence but neglected to affect the lives of African Americans. King is asserting that the rights guaranteed in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence should have been intact for all African Americans from the very first day that they were created.
One of Martin Luther King’s most impactful and quoted lines in the “I Have A Dream” speech is, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”(“I Have A Dream”). King’s statement is so incredibly strong because it paved a way for all persons to believe in justice and take action against the hatred they experienced. This statement created rage in the listeners hearts and urged Americans to consider their children and to consider how they wish their children to be treated in the social society. It was so impactful because no person would ever wish that their children be judged by their color. The thought of someone’s child becoming victims to acts of hatred is absolutely repulsing.
This rousing statement was so powerful and motivating that it brought people together and provoked people of color to keep resisting racism and keep fighting for their rights to be created equal. They fought for themselves, for their children and for their peers right to social and economic freedom.James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” is a book containing two essays regarding the racial tensions between the white and black man in the 1960s.
While Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” was riveting, James Baldwin’s solution for African Americans in the 1960’s was not as effectual as Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech. In Baldwin’s letter to his nephew, also named James, Baldwin urges James not to seek vengeance for the mistreatment and racism he and his family has experienced but rather open his mind and seek love. “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within” (Baldwin 95). He encourages James to accept and love white people because violence and hatred will not positively impact the United States. While Baldwin is admirable for encouraging James to choose love, he is also oblivious to believe loving and accepting the white person could change the way a white person perceived a person of color.
Unfortunately, James’ idea to stand by and let the white person come to terms with understanding the History of the United States and learning to accept and love America and it’s diversity is extremely illusory. If the majority of African Americans chose to listen to Baldwin’s plan of action rather than Kings, African Americans would have faced many more years of social injustice because the white man did not have respect for the black man and did not care whether they were loved by people of color. In a sense, Baldwin’s idea creates false hope for African Americans to sit and wait for the day they will be loved by a white person. A person of color should not accept and succumb to the racism and hatred in which they experience throughout their life. Any person who is a victim of hatred and social injustice should take a stand and fight for their natural rights which should be guaranteed at birth. James Baldwin also points out Christianity causes Americans – both white and black – to think narrowly.
Baldwin believes America will not be able to make any significant change as long as blacks and whites are practicing the destructive beliefs of Christianity. He believes Christianity is filled with hypocrisy and significant change comes from allowing oneself to think differently and gain a different perspectives in which Christianity has oppressed. “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him” (Baldwin 47).
While James does make a valid point in stating Christianity can cause both white and black people to be close-minded, thinking diversely still does not fix the “negro problem” (Baldwin 94). Adapting to the white standards – as Baldwin suggested – will ultimately lead the white population to believe people of color have admitted to defeat.Although both “The Fire Next Time” and “I Have A Dream” are extremely powerful works, Martin Luther King Jr’s plans for a progressive change are far more effective than James Baldwin’s plans for change. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Now is the time” solution is exactly what the African American society needed to keep fighting for their rights to be treated as equals in the 1960s.
King’s solution for African Americans to fight through the police brutality and imprisonment was definitely intimidating and challenging, but African Americans knew that the only way to sustain real change was to keep marching for their rights because no one else was going to fight for them.