Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Cornel West, Barack Obama: Giving Voice and Purpose to African American Subalterns
Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Cornel West, and Barack Obama are influential figures who advocate for drastic changes, especially for repressed and oppressed African Americans. The texts selected all respective to the aforementioned authors, The Ballot or the Bullet, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Strength to Love, Race Matters, Democracy Matters, Dreams from My Father, and The Audacity of Hope all contribute to the thesis' claims. Analysis of the selected texts is aided by New Historicism and Gayatri Spivak's article Can the Subaltern Speak? New Historicism's application to the texts reveals that history, politics, and culture impacts the daily struggles of disadvantaged African Americans. Living in a hegemonic postcolonial society, African Americans are interacting with systems intentionally designed to silence and subjugate them, contextualizing them as subalterns according to Gayatri Spivak's theory. These two theories help reveal the similarities between the authors, primarily the means and ends they desire: giving voice and mobility to African American subalterns through religion, politics, and prophetic proximal advocating and collaboration. Malcolm X, King, West, and Obama advocate for intellectual, spiritual, and hands-on leadership that will shift public focus away from shackling fallacies to freeing truth. These texts reveal that all four authors passionately faced powerful and stubborn opposition. The authors' persistence despite opposition is accompanied by unwavering and unapologetic love for African American subalterns relegated to the fringes of an American hegemonic society. It was and is apparent to me that minorities' voices have been relegated to the margins and that elitism and racism perpetuate this today. What became more apparent through investigating the primary texts is that too little changes between the two time periods, and that the negative impacts of the postcolonial systematic creating of subalterns has created cyclical poverty and nihilism. Progress has been made since the first slave ships broached America's shoreline; but, throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st Century, corporate interests and sensationalist money-fueled media machines have shielded, blinded, or at least fogged public perceptions of race relations in America. As evidenced by the texts, Americans are misinformed, partially due to willful ignorance, but also due to complex media and political biases. The authors contend this will change through the power of religion, the influence of politics, and the practicality and intimacy of prophetic leadership engaging with subaltern communities. Through these three focal areas, readers see congruence rarely associated with these four authors.
Meisenhelder, Randall. (May 2017). Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Cornel West, Barack Obama: Giving Voice and Purpose to African American Subalterns (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6128.)
Meisenhelder, Randall. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Cornel West, Barack Obama: Giving Voice and Purpose to African American Subalterns. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, May 2017. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6128. September 30, 2020.
Meisenhelder, Randall, “Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Cornel West, Barack Obama: Giving Voice and Purpose to African American Subalterns” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, May 2017).
Meisenhelder, Randall. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Cornel West, Barack Obama: Giving Voice and Purpose to African American Subalterns [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; May 2017.
East Carolina University