Identify The Civil Rights Activist

by Jeremy

My local NPR affiliate is doing some sort of thing this evening on Malcolm X and his relevance for the 21st century. I just so happened to be thinking about his "Ballot or the Bullet" speech from 1964 this week because I assigned it as reading alongside King's more famous letter. To kick off the conversation in class, I planned to throw both texts into the always-fun Wordle machine and visually demonstrate the different emphases. Expecting contrast, I was surprised at how little there was. It may take you more than a moment to distinguish the two than you think.


This similarity got me thinking that two speeches from different camps on the same subject probably would make about the same word usage patterns, with some rhetorically loaded differences of jargon few in number. 

What other political contrasts might engender similar word usage patterns? Democratic and Republican nomination speeches from the same year? Debate transcripts? Party platforms?  Try Wordling and find out.

Click on the image to enlarge. PS- I removed the word "Birmingham" for obvious reasons.



5 thoughts on “Identify The Civil Rights Activist

  1. Well it wasn’t hard for me to pick out which is which — the contrast was pretty obvious. I’m really not sure what differences you would have expected that aren’t there.
    Most specifically, the bottom Wordle has a big, dark “white” prominently displayed, while the top has it much smaller. That’s the first, most obvious tip-off.
    In terms of all-important “relative scariness to white people” factor, it’s pretty easy to distinguish Mr. “black man/ white man/ get/ nationalism” from Mr. “Negro church God time segregation brothers.”


  2. Agree with Ragtime that the difference seems blindingly obvious to me. So much so that I’d like to hear more about what made you think it would be tricky.
    I think I would find it harder to distinguish a Daily Kos from a Red State Wordle than to distinguish those two. Which I guess is a way of saying that I agree with the point of your last two paragraphs that comparative Wordle analysis of opposing political positions would be interesting, but find your choice of point of entry an odd one.


  3. Odd Coincidence. After finishing that comment, I went on Twitter and right at the top of my feed is a post from @RealTalibKweli saying “RIP El Hajj Malik El-Shabbaz.”


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