Rhetorical Analysis of Malcolm X's "Ballot Or the Bullet" Speech

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Rhetorical Analysis of Malcolm X’s “Ballot or the Bullet” Speech

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Ballot or the Bullet Summary and Context
  • Audience
  • Rhetorical Appeals
  • Ethos
    Delivery of the Speech
  • Conclusion


Malcolm X was an activist and leader of the Black Muslim Faith. When he was little he changed his last name to X to represent his slave name. Malcolm X became a leader for the Nation of Islam which represents both Black and Islam Culture to encourage and empowers African Americans who were searching for freedom in a segregated America. Malcolm X was born May 19, 1925, and died on February 21, 1965.  The purpose of the Ballot of The Bullet Speech was based on African Americans fighting for civil rights. This speech was given a month after Malcolm X said he was going to separate ways from the Nation of Islam. X intention for this speech was to drive his audience to continue the fight for Civil Rights and Black Nationalism.

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The Ballot or the Bullet Summary and Context

Malcolm X most Iconic Speeches “ The Ballot or The Bullet” was delivered during one of the most politically abundant time. Around this time President John F. Kennedy sent a Civil Rights Act to congress. The bill has stated a ban on discrimination of race, religion, and national origins in jobs and public accommodations around June 1963. Malcolm X begins his speech by welcoming friends and people he sees. He then went into discussing the Ballot or The Bullet and things about himself personally. Malcolm X says that he still considers himself as a Muslim even though he had resigned from the Nation of Islam black nationalist group which believed in separation for white people. He mentions in his speech of some of the Christian Ministers Dr. King, Adam Clayton Powell, and Rev. Galamison and stated what they were famous for and what they fought for.

He urged black people to use voting to progress civil rights. Malcolm X says that African Americans have made a lot of contributions to the United States and deserves equal rights to white peers. X Stated that the government has failed us and I quote “ The government has failed us. You can’t deny that. Any time you’re living in the 20 century, 1964 and you walking around here singing “We Shall Overcome,” the government has failed us.” ( Paragraph 20. American Radio Works). His speech was based on to do anything possible to fight for civil rights including violence. Malcolm X became more alarming for the African American Culture since he encouraged African Americans to use “ any means necessary’’ to oppose the “white men”.

At the end of his speech, he talked about a man he studied Billy Graham who preached white nationalism. To the audience, he spoke that they should do the same but their gospel would be black nationalism meaning they should control theirs. The politics of their community and the economy everything around them should be in there controlled.


Malcolm X delivered his Speech In Cleveland Ohio April 3, 1964, at King Solomon Baptist Church The Speaker targets was Black and White Americans. He gave a speech to speak to all his hearers. His main focus was for African Americans Blacks to create the change they had to take action by voting or violence ending racial injustice in America.

Rhetorical Appeals


Malcolm X used Ethos in his speech by introducing himself. He relates to the audience and I quote “ We all have the same problem. They don’t hang you because you’re a Baptist; they hang you 'cause you’re black. They don’t attack me because I’m a Muslim; they attack me 'cause I’m black. They attack all of us for the same reason”. He also lets us know that he is and always will be a Muslim.


Malcolm X used a lot of emotions through his speech it was his greatest strength. He appealed to his young audience and stirred them with anger. He used repetition throughout his speech. When he talked about white me taking our black neighborhoods he repeatedly said the word “ Control”. He spoke of the government and how they failed their people. The repetition encourages the audience to take action.


Malcolm X used logs a few times throughout his speech. The 20 million Black people in America, Lyndon B. Johnson Leader of Democratic Party, and the NAACP, CORE, Student Nonviolent Coordinating.

Delivery of the Speech

Malcolm X Delivery was Emotionally Charged and used Persuasive language to arouse within the audience. The Speech was very formal and serious this made the speech more personal between the speaker and audience. Example: “ Oh, I say you’ve been misled. You been had. You been took.” Malcolm x kept a steady volume throughout the speech he felt what he was preaching about. He took Powerful Phrases and long pauses to work up his crowd.


After conducting the rhetorical analysis I could conclude that Malcolm X was a leader who changed the world and would never be forgotten. On April 3, 1964, Malcolm X stood in front of a crowd and presented one of his greatest speeches. His goal was simple he wanted to change the mind of his audience make them fight for something and not let anyone get in their way even if violence is the option. He gave a speech that held his audience captive and fed them with the views he believes in. Malcolm X was a man who stood for something to make a difference, “the one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way” (John C. Maxwell).

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