Reading questions for Malcolm X’s speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet”

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1. Malcolm X calls himself a “Black Nationalist.”  What does this mean?  List a few of the characteristics of this ideology.

2. Why is Malcolm X so skeptical about whether white politicians and white liberals can be trusted to help the cause of Black Americans? 

3. Is Malcolm X advocating for violence or is he merely predicting it, should voting rights not be successfully implemented?

4. Consider the following passage from the “Declaration of Independence”: 

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

 Does Malcolm X agree with this passage?

5. Consider the following statements, and then determine which one most accurately summarizes Malcolm X’s thesis in his speech:  (a) Whites have systematically exploited and duped Blacks throughout American history; therefore, Blacks should use either the ballot or the bullet to organize and overthrow this system of exploitation.  The goal of this political revolution should be a free society that genuinely protects everyone’s rights. (b) Whites have already organized themselves as a “nation” or race that merely looks out for its own interests; rather than integrate into this organization, Blacks must do the same things in their own community by maintaining separate political and economic institutions.

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