Supporting your Thesis


  • Analyze the different tactics advocated by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X in the Civil Rights Movement
  • Write a cogent, well-developed argument that clearly articulates a thesis supported by textual evidence
  • Document sources (print, electronic, and other) in MLA style



In a 1250-1500 word (approximately 4-5 page), write a thesis-driven pages that responds to the following prompt:

In “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King tells the eight clergymen that the nonviolent direct action he advocates is preferable to the “hatred and despair of the black nationalist.” King compares his “more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest” to the “bitterness and hatred” of Black nationalist groups, like “Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement” (i.e., the Nation of Islam), which come “perilously close to advocating violence.”

As the spokesperson of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X was the type of Black nationalist to whom King alludes. In “The Ballot or the Bullet,” Malcolm X says to his audience that when it comes to the struggle for civil rights, “We will work with anybody, anywhere, at any time, who is genuinely interested in tackling the problem head-on, nonviolently as long as the enemy is nonviolent, but violent when the enemy gets violent” (222).

After closely reading the primary texts, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet,” whose claims about how one should fight for civil rights—King’s or Malcolm X’s—do you find more persuasive? Explain the reasons for your choice.

In your response, compare and/or contrast King’s and Malcolm X’s . . .

  1. Intended audience(s) (Review Primary versus Secondary Audience)
  2. Use of logos, ethos, and/or pathos to persuade the audience (Review Aristotle on Rhetoric)

Note: You can use text from your discussion posts (from previous modules) or Reading Response (from Module 4) if you would like to.


Come up with your own creative and specific title for this work. Use the titles of secondary texts as examples, such as the title, “Violence and/or Nonviolence in the Success of the Civil Rights Movement: The Malcolm X–Martin Luther King, Jr. Nexus” by August H. Nimtz. Note that Byerman uses a catchy title (“Violence and/or Nonviolence in the Success of the Civil Rights Movement”) and a more specific subtitle (“The Malcolm X–Martin Luther King, Jr. Nexus”).

According to MLA format, your own title should be in a normal 12-point font with no underline, italics, bold, or quotation marks (except for titles of works within your title, such as “The Ballot or the Bullet,” which would be in quotation marks).


The thesis statement (which can be longer than one sentence) should . . .

  1. Respond to the question above: “[W]hose claims about how one should fight for civil rights—King’s or Malcolm X’s—do you find more persuasive?”
  2. Be arguable: a claim with which someone could agree or disagree
  3. Be specific: state both your claim (what you believe) and your reasons (why you believe it)

Supporting your Thesis

The strength of your pages will depend on how well you support your thesis and topic statements. The pages should include analysis of multiple quotations from both primary texts: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”Links to an external site. and Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet.” (Links to an external site.) Furthermore, each body paragraph (not including the introduction or conclusion) should include at least one quoted passage from one of the primary texts.

In order to ensure that this textual evidence is well integrated into your work, you should introduce (with a signal phrase), closely analyze, and correctly cite the quotation. It should be clear how exactly the textual evidence supports your thesis and topic statements. To integrate a quotation well, try to always make a “quote sandwich (Links to an external site.).”


Your thesis and topic statements should make arguable claims about specific aspects of the texts. Your work should also include logical and smooth transitions between paragraphs, and the conclusion should not simply repeat your thesis or topic statements. Instead, in the conclusion, briefly examine the wider significance of the texts themselves and/or your critique of them.


  • Remember that you must correctly cite any print or web source that you quote or paraphrase. Submitting the words or ideas of someone else without proper citation is considered plagiarism.