Patrick Henry and Malcolm X Freedom Fighters Analysis

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“Liberty or death! ” This phrase was used by both Patrick Henry and Malcolm X in their speeches. Even though these men gave their speeches almost two centuries apart their goal was the same. They both wanted to convince their audience to fight for freedom. Through the use of rhetorical strategies, Patrick Henry was successful in convincing the colonies to fight for their freedom from Britain and Malcolm X was successful in convincing African Americans to fight for their rights. To begin with, Patrick Henry was one of the first opponents of British rule in the colonies.

He was famous for giving speeches on American Democracy. Patrick Henry’s wit, eloquence, and rhetorical gifts made him a great orator. He eventually became an influential leader during and after the American Revolution (Henry). Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Virginia Convention” was given before the American Revolution. By the time that Henry gave his speech, many colonists already wanted to break away from Britain. However, other colonists were not too sure about rising up against British rule.

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At the beginning of the “Speech to the Virginia Convention,” Patrick Henry uses the either or fallacy when he tells the audience, “I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery. He uses this fallacy to convince the audience that they only have two options, freedom or slavery, when there are really more options. It also makes the situation seem very serious (Henry 226). As the speech continues Patrick Henry says, “Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. ” This is a biblical allusion to Judas’ kiss.

Henry uses this allusion to say that Britain may act like it is concerned about the well-being of the colonies, but Britain will betray them eventually (Henry 228). Further into the speech he says, “We have done everything we could to avert the storm. ” He is using a metaphor to compare the revolution with a storm. Henry is saying that the revolution has become unavoidable and no matter how much they try to avoid having a revolution it will happen (Henry 229). Also, throughout the entire speech Patrick Henry uses rhetorical questions.

To prove his point Henry asks, “Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? ” As he asks these questions to the audience Patrick Henry answers them himself to make his point clear. At the end of his speech, Patrick Henry uses the either or fallacy again. His last words to the audience are, “Give me liberty or give me death! ” He uses this fallacy to make the situation seem very important by only giving the options of being free or being dead. He saves this line for the end of his speech because he wants the audience to remember those words (Henry 230).

This great speech by Patrick Henry was very successful in convincing the colonists to fight for their freedom. Another great orator was Malcolm X, an important black leader. He was a very influential figure during the Civil Rights Movement in America. Malcolm X supported African American self-defense (Colelge). Unlike Martin Luther King Jr. , another prominent figure at the time, Malcolm X preached that if violence was necessary than it was justified (Brief). Malcolm X gave “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech on April 12, 1964.

The speech was given during the time of the Civil Rights Movement. This was a time of great turmoil and unrest for both blacks and whites in America (Miller). This turmoil that was caused by the inequality that African Americans suffered gave Malcolm X many reasons to give his powerful speech. At the beginning of “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech, Malcolm X uses the either or fallacy. He says, “In my humble way of understanding it, it points toward either the ballot or the bullet. ” He uses the fallacy to convince the audience that there are only options are voting or violence.

He wants the audience to feel that if they do not vote for good representation, there will only be violence (Malcolm X). As Malcolm X continues his speech, he tells the audience, “All of us have suffered here in this country, political oppression at the hands of the white man, economic exploitation at the hands of the white man, and social degradation at the hands of the white man. ” In these lines, Malcolm X uses loaded language and parallel structure. The words “oppression,” “exploitation,” and “degradation” are all strong words to remind the audience of how badly they have been treated.

He also uses parallel structure by repeating the words “at the hands of the white man” throughout the sentence. He repeats those words to emphasize and make it clear to the audience that many white people have treated African Americans horribly (Malcolm X). After, Malcolm X uses an anti-thesis when he says, “I don’t see any American-Dream; I see an American nightmare. ” He uses an anti-thesis to convince the audience that there are no dreams only nightmares. The words “dream” and “nightmare” are opposites used to convince the audience that their lives are nightmares because of the white man (Malcolm X).

As Malcolm X continues, he tells the audience, “Your vote, your dumb vote, your ignorant vote, your wasted vote. ” Malcolm X uses anaphora and parallel structure to emphasize to the audience that they wasted the vote that they had. He repeats the words “your” and “vote. ” He also uses loaded language when he says “dumb,” “ignorant,” and “wasted” to describe how the audience voted (Malcolm X). Then Malcolm X asks the audience, “How can you thank a man for giving you what’s already yours? How then can you thank him for giving you only a part of what’s already yours? Malcolm X asks the audience these two rhetorical questions to prove that the white man has given nothing to African Americans. The audience does not have to answer these questions and neither does Malcolm X because they all know that they have nothing to be thankful for (Malcolm X). After, Malcolm X continues to repeat, “It’ll be ballots or it’ll be bullets. It’ll be liberty or it will be death. ” He uses the either or fallacy again because he wants to make the audience believe that they truly only have 2 choices, voting for the right politicians or resorting to violence to get what they want (Malcolm X).

Malcolm X then tells the audience, “Our mothers and fathers invested sweat and blood. Three hundred and ten years we worked in this country without a dime in return. You let the white man walk around here talking about how rich the country is, but you never stop to think how it got rich so quick. It got rich because you made it rich. ” In these lines, he uses pathos and logos. He appeals to logic by bringing up facts about slavery in America, like how it lasted for three hundred and ten years. He appeals to emotion by reminding the audience how much Africans have suffered because of the white man (Malcolm X).

Towards the end of his speech, Malcolm X says, “And this time they’re not going like they went last year. They’re not going singing “we shall overcome. ” They’re not going with white friends. They’re not going with placards already painted for them. They’re not going with round-trip tickets. They’re going with one way tickets. ” Malcolm X uses anaphora to make it clear to the audience that the march in 1964 will be nothing like the march in 1963. He makes this clear by repeating the words “They’re not,” at the beginning of every sentence (Malcolm X).

At the end of his speech, Malcolm X gives the audience only 5 words, “The ballot or the Bullet. ” He leaves the audience with these words so they remember the two choices that they have. In conclusion, both Patrick Henry and Malcolm X gave exceptional speeches. Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Virginia Convention,” convinced many colonists to fight for the freedom that they deserved. Almost two centuries later Malcolm X used “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech to convince African Americans to fight for the rights that they deserved. In the end, these two completely different men left us with the same three words, “Liberty or Death. ”

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Patrick Henry and Malcolm X Freedom Fighters Analysis. (2016, Oct 26). Retrieved from

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