Hidden History in Black Panther

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Hidden History in Black Panther

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Black Panther is a movie about the struggle of being newly crowned King and the main character, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), has to face when his rightful place as King of Wakanda is threatened. He must fight a powerful enemy, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), in order to keep his people and his country’s secrets safe.


Ryan Coogler decided to tackle a different style of directing in his movie The Black Panther. By decided to hide historical eggs throughout the movie he ‘tipped his hat’ to some of our nation’s most profound moments in history. The biggest being Black Panther’s main characters, T’Challa and Killmonger, being said to be the equivalent of two of the most famous protesters in American History, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. If you are not looking for the hidden message in the movie it may have been easy to miss.


MLK and Malcolm X are two of the most important figures in African American history. They both roused their people to fight for the equal treatment and rights of black people in America. They are still important for the many people who continue to fight for equal rights today.


Initially, and most importantly is their personalities, Killmonger prefers to use violent measures and to keep the secrets of Wakanda for Black people. Unlike T’Challa who prefers to use non-violent steps which would later be shared and would allow his advanced secrets to help people of all races. This is exactly how Malcolm X and MLK’s views differ. Malcolm X believed in the saying “by any means necessary”. Now this is not to say that Malcolm was a violent person, he was actually far from it, he just believed that self-defense is necessary when violent situations arise. MLK disapproved of this ideology and let it be known. He believed that “love always wins over hate”. Many of his protests were filled with protesters being beaten but refusing to fight back because they believed it was the only way to get equality.


Now with that in mind, it needs to be understood why Killmonger (aka Malcolm X) is vilified in the movie Black Panther. America and much of history hated Malcolm X. He was too much of a radical and the government couldn’t control him. For this reason, his opposite, MLK is praised, partly because he was easier to “control”. Although MLK was the reason behind a lot of change the government liked that they could convince him to do things their way.


Malcolm X knew that you could not work with the enemy to get what you want, you get all of their enemies to rise up against them to get what you need. You take charge and do things exactly the way you want them to get your desired outcome. Killmonger is the human embodiment of this. He knew that by taking over the throne he could get exactly what he wanted, control of his people’s futures. He refused to work with the enemy because he knew that at the end of the day they’ll always be your enemy. He also understood firsthand the hardships his people were going through outside of the country and knew he could fix it with the right resources. Lastly, he knew that he needed to take care of his people first and not the enemies children.


T’Challa (the embodiment of MLK) is the complete opposite of this. In the beginning, he wanted to keep all the resources safe for his people, believing this would be the only way to keep them safe. Towards the end of the movie, with the help of Killmonger, he realizes that he must help Black people from all over the world, not just the ones in Wakanda. T’Challa believes in uniting with the white man in order to help further advance his people just as Martin Luther King Jr. did.

In the end, you realize that the two characters aren’t actually different. At the end of the day, they’re both fighting for the same thing they just used different routes to get there.