Why Does Martin Luther King Have More Fame Than Malcolm X?

Although both men were black and fought to stop the injustices against the black community, they had very different backgrounds, took different approaches, and had different end goals. The main differences on why Martin Luther King Jr. became more well-known is because he was what the masses considered a respectable, educated man that took the approach of integration through peaceful protest. Malcolm X, in contrast, who had dropped out of school, was a Muslim, and chose a more aggressive approach to the Civil Rights Movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. was not abrasive, and Malcolm X was going around calling people “White Devils” and that’s easier to digest for the majority.

Education and Faith

Martin Luther King Jr. was not only well educated, but he was also granted early admission to college at the age of 15. He eventually went on to earn a Ph.D. He had also been ordained a minister in a Baptist Church. Maybe the masses didn’t like that he was a particular denomination of Christianity, but at least he was Christian. These points go right along with what the majority (white people) of the United States would consider a better option to Malcolm X’s background.

Though Malcolm X was a very intelligent man, having been expelled from junior high school, dropping out as a result, and never attending college did not earn him any favor in the sight of the masses. He was also of the Black Muslim faith, so you can imagine the majority, all Christians, weren’t exactly thrilled with that, especially in the 1960’s.


In a nutshell, Martin Luther King Jr. was more, “Let’s talk about it,” while Malcolm X was more, “Let’s duke it out, put up your fists.” Neither of these men said these exact words, but the feeling is there. Martin Luther King’s approach was to peacefully protest and to use words to encourage change. Malcolm X wanted to secure rights for the black community “by any means necessary,” which could include the use of violence. He had a very unapologetically sharp tongue that would lash out at white people on a regular basis. I understand the outrage, so I’m not commenting on whether it was necessary or not, but in comparison to Martin Luther King, this approach was far less palatable. After all, nobody likes to be told that they’re wrong, or that they are a devil, or that they have no morals.


In Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he paints a picture of an America where people of all colors simply live together, all with no prejudices against one another based on race. Basically integration.

Malcolm X, on the other hand, desired separation. He believed that whites were headed for damnation and divine punishment, and that blacks were a chosen people. He wanted a separate nation for blacks. Given these two options, the less extreme one would be Dr. King’s ideal scenario.

That’s not to say that it was instantly accepted far and wide, but it does show how it came to be that Martin Luther King Jr. gained more fame than Malcolm X. Just imagine you’re wanting to introduce your daughter (the U.S.A.) to a gentleman suiter, and your only two choices were these two men. Are you going to introduce her to the drop out, not of your faith, that calls you a devil and wants to punch you in the face? Or will you introduce her to the easy-going man with the Ph.D. that is of your faith (close enough) who just wants your two families to join together?

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