Violence Prevention

Civil rights leader Malcolm X now appears in many history books and has been the hero of a feature film, but very few sources actually delve into the forms of leadership and resistance to oppression that Malcolm X advocated in the last year of his life.
Grade Level


At the end of the lesson, students will be able to: 

  • analyze the rhetorical strategies Malcolm X used in his speeches, such as tone, emotional appeal, and descriptive language. 
  • consider the strategies used by African American leaders during the civil rights movement and the social implications of these strategies. 
  • contrast the leadership and ideology of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X in the civil rights movement and evaluate their legacies. 
  • identify personal values and use them to determine appropriate behaviors for protecting their individual rights.


Essential Questions
  • How can people protect their individual rights in a nonviolent way?



  • advocate [ad-vuh-keyt] (noun)  a person who supports a cause   
  • antithesis [an-tith-uh-sis] (noun)  the complete opposite of 
  • dogmatic [dog-mat-ik] (adjective)  expressing a strong set of opinions as if they are the truth 
  • indignation [in-dig-ney-shuhn] (noun)  anger at something considered unfair 
  • multifaceted [muhl-tee-fas-i-tid] (adjective)  having many sides or features 
  • retaliation [ri-tal-ee-ey-shuhn] (noun)  the act of taking revenge


Suggested Procedure

  1. Show students some footage from a film about the civil rights era, such as this video on the Birmingham Children's March, that documents law enforcement's violent reaction to peaceful demonstrations (photos from Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, or the Freedom Rides are also powerful). 
  2. Discuss the Preview Questions to determine what students know about the individual leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Write the background information on the board. Students might mention King’s relationship with Gandhi or Malcolm X's with the Nation of Islam. 
  3. Use Handout I: Rethinking Malcolm X to give everyone background information about Malcolm X. If possible, allow students to use the Internet version of the essay so they can take some time to explore the links on that page during class or as homework. 
  4. Distribute Handout II: The Language of Resistance. Ask students to read the excerpts from the Malcolm X speeches independently, then ask them to take turns reading individual excerpts aloud. 
  5. Repeat using the discussion questions, pausing to allow students to share comments and ideas after they have read. Ask the class to respond to the follow-up questions on the handout.

Common Core State Standards: R.1, R.2, R.3, R.4, R.6, R.7, R.10, W.1, W.2, W.8, W.9, SL.1, L.4, L.5 



Assign The Autobiography of Malcolm X; ask students to begin reading at Chapter 17 and offer them the study guide questions on Handout III: Reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X

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