The speech The Ballot or the Bullet was made by Malcolm X. He gave the speech in the King Solomon Baptist Church, Detroit, on 12th April 1964. Malcolm X was a civil rights activist, and the speech was aligned with human rights activism. The speaker was rallying the African American community to stand up and advocate for the space in social and economic spheres. The speech spoke to American society on the evils of segregation and the need to use the power of the ballot to address the issues. Thus, Malcolm’s speech was a wake-up call for a just society that respects human rights. Malcolm X was an African leader and strong advocate and defender of Black Nationalism. He was also a religious leader among the Muslims. These leadership roles gave him the authority to speak on the issues affecting the African American race.
Malcolm X kept repeating the words “the ballot or the bullet.” He also repeated “black nationalism” and “black people” throughout the speech. The speaker’s speed was at an overall medium. However, there were times he spoke faster, especially when repeating the word “black nationalism.” He also engaged in a low tempo whenever he wanted to stress a point. Malcolm X spoke softly throughout the speech, but he occasionally raised his voice to draw the attention of his audience. Malcolm X utilized a mix of positive and negative tones in his speech. When addressing the audience on the need to fight for their political space, he was positive, exuding confidence and hope. In contrast, he used a negative tone when complaining about the injustices the “white man” visited upon them. The speaker employed non-verbal gestures such as pointing and waving to make his presentation effective and keep the audience attentive. Besides, he integrated facial expressions into his presentation to keep the audience alert.
The speaker used ethos, pathos, and logos to appeal to and persuade his audience. He used ethos to bring out his personality as one that was credible, and thus his words should be trusted. He utilized pathos to stir the emotions of his audience and connect them to his words. Finally, he used logos to explain the rationality of his ideas and why they mattered. An example of ethos is when Malcolm says, “I myself am a minister, not a Christian minister, but a Muslim minister” (Malcolm et al. 1). This objective was to bring out his character and why he meant well for the African American race. He uses logos when he says,” If they draft you, they send you to Korea and make you face 800 million Chinese. If you can be brave over there, you can be brave right here” (Malcolm et al. 2). This was to help the audience think logically about their predicaments and why they were surmountable. He uses pathos when saying, “No, if you never see me another time in your life if I die in the morning, I’ll die saying one thing: the ballot or the bullet, the ballot or the bullet” (Malcolm et al. 12). The statement is an emotional appeal to the African community where changes come from sacrifices that include death. The speech was successful as it inspired hope among African Americans. It helped them believe that they had the power to determine their destiny through the ballot. It gave them the confidence that a just America was possible for all. The themes and presentation style were in sync. Therefore, the speech was successful in connecting the speaker to the audience.
Malcolm, X et al. “The Ballot or the Bullet.” Paul Winley Records, 1987.