MLK and Malcolm X were more alike than we thought. Here’s why.

Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are two of the most iconic figures of the 20th century and of the civil rights movement. Both men were leaders of their own separate movements, with King serving as the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Malcolm X as a minister and leading national spokesperson for the Nation of Islam (NOI). However, most people believe the two men had very different approaches to the challenge of achieving racial justice and equality in the U.S.

“The mythology around both men frames them as opposites,” said Peniel Joseph, the Barbara Jordan chair in ethics and political values at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. “It frames Malcolm as King’s evil twin and King as this saint who would just give everybody a hug if he was alive right now. That really takes away from understanding the depth and breadth of their political power, their political radicalism and their evolution over time.”

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