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The Intersection of the American Creed and Social Justice Movements

Feb 3, 2023 | 0 comments

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Feb 3, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

“The Ballot or the Bullet” and American Creed

In his speech, Malcolm X spoke more about the equality of African Americans from all religions and social backgrounds, he began by emphasizing that he would not speak of anything that differentiates and divides the African Americans, but rather he would speak of that which would bring them together.  Malcolm, through his speech showed the African Americans that in order to be influential voting would be as a bloc rather than through individuals. It is only through this system that they would influence the government.  This is similar to the emphasis by the American creed on the “government of the people”. This statement has often been misquoted and misinterpreted for individual interests especially during political campaigns. However, when taken in the context of Malcolm’s speech, it is all about the influence that the people in their entity have on the government. A government supported and voted in by a majority of the African Americans cannot therefore ignore the issues and problems of the African Americans. Such government is forced to address their matters hence exercising the influence of the voting system.

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Williams states that, whereas the creed emphasizes equality of all Americans, Malcolm X was skeptical of such equality being brought forth by the government (23). In his speech he states that the government has encouraged oppression and segregation. Therefore, a complete overhaul of the system is needed if equality is to be experienced. He continues to state that despite the Supreme Court ruling against segregation and classification, the African Americans are still experiencing this system of oppression as propagated by the local governments and leaders. The American creed is a domestic pledge but for Malcolm x, African American segregation was beyond domestic it was an international issue.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

King’s letter can be summarized in a simple sentence that injustice to one individual is injustice to all. This is the prominent theme of the letter he wrote to clergy men who were against the civil protests. To the American creed, emphasizes that it is one and inseparable. Therefore, the suffering of one citizen and in essence a whole race of citizens culminates in the suffering of all people. Injustice to one person or are should be fought with all the resources that the nation has and I should be fought in unity. This is in compliance with Luther’s letter to the clergy. However unlike Malcolm X, king was more skeptical of the influence that African Americans would ever have when it comes to the government. He states clearly, that “this wait has always meant never”. The American creed supports the justice of all its citizens. Each individual is treated equally with all the justice they deserve despite being from a particular race, gender or social class. However, Luther sees the creed as beautiful words on a piece f paper whose reality will never be experienced by his people especially if they do not hold protests against segregation and other inequality issues.

However, according to Rieder, in the conclusion, he seems to re-affirm himself stating that freedom will be achieved through with great difficulty (71). He concurs with the creed in that freedom is the goal of America as a nation and all its citizenry are entitled to such freedom which should not be violate at any cost. However, it is still important to note that this is not the core of the letter.

Port Huron Statement

The manifesto written by student activities emphasizes on true democratic rule with the absence of political protests. In a true democracy each individual has a right to heard and to fully participate in whichever form they deem pleasing to themselves. The government therefore becomes a collection of the dreams, desires and ideas of all people (Flacks 25). Through proper and true participation, change can be experienced and protests which have led to loss of lives and violence can be done away with. This is similar to the call for democracy in the American creed. According to the creed America is a united nation under the democratic rule where all people are treated equally and given real opportunities through participation.

The manifesto clams that participatory democracy has often been treated as an abstract. Whereas, America has been built on principles of full democracy, the voting system is yet to be effective. In this case, the manifesto suggests that the society cannot just rely on voting as a system of righting wrongs. It is important for the citizenry and in the case of the manifesto labor unions and peace movements to put forward candidates who will take up the course in the higher echelons of power. The America creed on the other hand, speaks and emphasizes ion true democracy as a reality rather than an abstract. By exercising their democratic right to vote and participate in nation building, the creed expects the nation will grow and prosper as one unit. Protecting the nation can only come from participatory democracy encouraged in the manifesto.


Flacks, Richard. Port Huron Statement. University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc, 2015..

Rieder, Jonathan. Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation. , 2013.

Williams, Jakobi. From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coalition Politics in Chicago. , 2013.




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