On that March day, the bill’s supporters were suffering through a filibuster by the party in opposition to the bill, a bill that was designed to “bring the nation closer to multiracial democracy through the end of racial segregation.”
Malcolm X and King had different approaches to a common goal, but their presence at this historic moment demonstrated their solidarity in seeking change for the citizens whose dreams they represented. The image of this joint appearance becomes a touchstone of Joseph’s story, a story that looks beyond the public images and seeks the true nature of each man and their relationship to each other and to the movement.
In an intricate weaving of the two biographies, we see a sharper picture of how these two gentlemen complemented each other in their quest for equity for African Americans. When they were alive, Malcolm X was perceived as a firebrand who demanded equality, and King was seen by some as a soft-spoken yet eloquent preacher who was too soft to get everything Blacks deserved.
Each man’s message reached people with different ideas on how to achieve social and economic equality in a country where Jim Crow laws and other institutional racism had robbed a significant portion of the citizenry of their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
As the Movement progressed, each faction slowly changed from its original focus and, like the two leaders, began to move toward a middle ground while still striving for the justice they sought. Their movement toward a central position follows the pattern of compromise central to an effective government of, by and for the people in a diverse society.
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