The civil rights ideology promoted by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and which became the goal of the civil rights movement, involved equality and interdependence for both black and white peoples, integration in the American society, through peaceful means. By contrast, Malcolm X was a proponent of self-defense for black people, and wanted to achieve complete economic and political independence for African-Americans. Later on, the Black Panther movement appeared to adopt Malcolm X’s philosophy of putting the emphasis on either the ballot or the bullet. The Black Panther party adopted the philosophy of Malcolm X in that it strolled to gain freedom through any means required as a way of justifying their methods in addition to striving to inspire other blacks to become part of the movement.
The Black Panthers made a decision that they wanted to carry out Malcolm X’s principle of self-defense of black people by patrolling the police. During those days, instances of severe police brutality occurred on a regular basis, so that African-Americans were often beaten and even killed. As a result, certain prominent leaders in the Black Panther movement, such as Huey Newton, began carrying guns. The impact on the police was that they became fearful of black people, but for African-Americans, this was a significant form of empowerment. The self-defense principle of Malcolm X was an overt factor in the decision of African-Americans to act in ways that would protect themselves.
Muhammad Ali aligned himself with Malcolm X and his philosophy, announcing in public that he had joined the Nation of Islam. This was an extremely radical move because this group referred to white people as devils and, as stated, strove for self-defense and racial separation. Therefore, the essential difference between the traditional civil rights movement and the Black Panther party along with the Nation of Islam was that the civil rights movement aims for interdependence with white people, and the other two groups strove for separation.