(Malcolm Little; Omaha, Nebraska, 1925 – New York, 1965) Revolutionary leader of the North American black minority. He was the son of a Protestant pastor and a mulatto woman, born from the rape of a black woman by a white man; During his childhood, he suffered from the continuous transfer of residence of his family, fleeing from the attacks of racist groups, which culminated in the murder of his father in 1931.
In 1942 he settled in New York and became a street criminal (drug dealer, pimp, thief). Sentenced to seven years in prison in 1946, he abandoned his drug addiction, studied by correspondence and made contact with the Nation of Islam (NOI), a Muslim religious movement led by Elijah Muhammad, who considered blacks the favorite people of Allah and the whites the personification of the devil.
Thus, he went from crime and the marginality to which circumstances had condemned him to effective political activism in defense of a mistreated racial minority. Upon his release from prison in 1952 he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his last name to “X”, which symbolized the original African surname that black Americans had lost. His propaganda work spread the influence of the Nation of Islam in Detroit, Boston, and Philadelphia; he founded the Muhammad Speaks newspaper; and he became the head of the Nation of Islam in New York.
Since the late fifties he was presented by the media as an apostle of violence, distorting his message of rejection of white domination and self-defense against racism. His popularity determined a rivalry with Elijah Muhammad that would end with the split of Malcolm X in 1964, when he learned that there were plans to assassinate him. Malcolm X advocated participating more actively in the political struggle, denouncing that neither the individual reform actions of the Nation of Islam nor the campaign for civil rights (which was booming in those years thanks to the leadership of Martin Luther King ) would lead by themselves to the liberation of blacks. He then founded his own movement, the Muslim Mosque.
In that same year he fulfilled the religious precept of making a pilgrimage to Mecca, taking the opportunity to visit seven Muslim countries. This journey converted him to a more orthodox form of Islam , in which he saw possible brotherhood of all races; he abandoned the racism of the Nation of Islam, stopped preaching separatism and went on to propose a black nationalism, that is, an emancipation based on taking control of their own organizations and communities.
In a second trip also carried out in 1964, Malcolm X made contact with important African leaders ( Gamal Abdel Nasser , Julius Nyerere , Kwame Nkrumah , Jomo Kenyatta ) and incorporated the fight against North American imperialism into his speech; the reflection of it was the founding, still in 1964, of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, a lay movement with a socialist tendency. These transformations did not bear fruit, as he was assassinated the following year, probably on the orders of Elijah Muhammad.
-A new world order is in the making, and it is up to us to prepare ourselves that we may take our rightful place in it.
-What I want to know is how the white man, with the blood of black people dripping off his fingers, can have the audacity to be asking black people [why] they hate him?
-Yes, I’m an extremist. The black race… is in extremely bad condition. You show me a black man who isn’t an extremist and I’ll show you one who needs psychiatric attention!
-I find it difficult [to believe] that… Christians accuse [Black Muslims] of teaching racial supremacy or… hatred, because their own history and… teachings are filled with it.
-Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American.
-The holiest and most sacred city on earth. The fountain of truth, love, peace, and brotherhood.
-I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.
-The white man is afraid of truth… I’m the only black man they’ve ever been close to who they know speaks the truth to them. It’s their guilt that upsets them, not me.
-Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.
-We’re not Americans, we’re Africans who happen to be in America. We were kidnapped and brought here against our will from Africa. We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock – that rock landed on us.
-It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That’s the only thing that can save this country.
-You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
-People involved in a revolution don’t become part of the system; they destroy the system… The Negro revolution is no revolution because it condemns the system and then asks the system it has condemned to accept them…
-One of the things that made the Black Muslim movement grow was its emphasis upon things African. This was the secret to the growth of the Black Muslim movement. African blood, African origin, African culture, African ties. And you’d be surprised – we discovered that deep within the subconscious of the black man in this country , he is still more African than he is American.
-The price of freedom is death.
-Power never takes a back step – only in the face of more power.
-Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it’s against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it’s against the oppressor. You don’t need anything else.
-We black men have a hard enough time in our own struggle for justice, and already have enough enemies as it is, to make the drastic mistake of attacking each other and adding more weight to an already unbearable load.
-Speaking like this doesn’t mean that we’re anti-white, but it does mean we’re anti-exploitation, we’re anti-degradation, we’re anti-oppression.
-Once I was, yes. But now I have turned my direction away from anything that’s racist.
-We do not condemn the preachers as an individual but we condemn what they teach. We urge that the preachers teach the truth, to teach our people the one important guiding rule of conduct – unity of purpose.
-I don’t even call it violence when it’s in self defense; I call it intelligence.
-If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.
-Nonviolence is fine as long as it works.
-I am for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man’s problem just to avoid violence.
-There can be no black-white unity until there is first some black unity. We cannot think of uniting with others, until after we have first united among ourselves. We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.
-My alma mater was books, a good library. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.
-I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.
-We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.
-I believe in human rights for everyone, and none of us is qualified to judge each other and that none of us should therefore have that authority.
-The only way we’ll get freedom for ourselves is to identify ourselves with every oppressed people in the world. We are blood brothers to the people of Brazil, Venezuelan Haiti and Cuba.
-I am neither a fanatic nor a dreamer. I am a black man who loves peace, and justice, and loves his people.
-Dr. King wants the same thing I want. Freedom.
-In all our deeds, the proper value and respect for time determines success or failure.
-The Negro revolution is controlled by foxy white liberals, by the Government itself. But the Black Revolution is controlled only by God.
-I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke in me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.
-A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.
-The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.
-People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.
-I want Dr. King to know that I didn’t come to Selma to make his job difficult. I really did come thinking I could make it easier. If the white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be more willing to hear Dr. King.
-Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny, because the power of a just cause is based on conviction, and leads to resolute and uncompromising action.
-Concerning nonviolence, it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.
-I believe in the brotherhood of all men, but I don’t believe in wasting brotherhood on anyone who doesn’t want to practice it with me. Brotherhood is a two-way street.
-It takes heart to be a guerrilla warrior because you’re on your own. In conventional warfare you have tanks and a whole lot of other people with you to back you up—planes over your head and all that kind of stuff. But a guerrilla is on his own. All you have is a rifle, some sneakers and a bowl of rice, and that’s all you need — and a lot of heart.
-There is nothing in our book, the Koran, that teaches us to suffer peacefully. Our religion teaches us to be intelligent. Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery. That’s a good religion.
-When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that he will not do to acquire that freedom. Whenever you hear a man saying he wants freedom, but in the next breath he is going to tell you what he won’t do to get it, or what he doesn’t believe in doing in order to get it, he doesn’t believe in freedom. A man who believes in freedom will do anything under the sun to acquire or preserve his freedom.
-They put your mind right in a bag, and take it wherever they want.
-You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being.
-The real names of our people were destroyed during slavery. The last name of my forefathers was taken from them when they were brought to America and made slaves, and then the name of the slave master was given, which we refuse, we reject that name today and refuse it. I never acknowledge it whatsoever.
-I believe in a religion that believes in freedom. Any time I have to accept a religion that won’t let me fight a battle for my people, I say to hell with that religion.
-We are nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us.
-I don’t see an American Dream, I see an American Nightmare.
-I’m the man you think you are. If you want to know what I’ll do, figure out what you’ll do. I’ll do the same thing–only more of it.
-What is a Dixiecrat? A Democrat. A Dixiecrat is nothing but a Democrat in disguise.
-The day that the black man takes an uncompromising step and realizes that he’s within his rights, when his own freedom is being jeopardized, to use any means necessary to bring about his freedom or put a halt to that injustice, I don’t think he’ll be by himself.
-Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they’ve always made me glad.
-I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.
-When ghetto living seems normal, you have no shame, no privacy.
-If you have a dog, I must have a dog. If you have a rifle, I must have a rifle. If you have a club, I must have a club. This is equality.
-Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.
-I feel like a man who has been asleep somewhat and under someone else’s control. I feel that what I’m thinking and saying is now for myself. Before it was for and by the guidance of Elijah Muhammad. Now I think with my own mind, sir!
-To have once been a criminal is no disgrace. To remain a criminal is the disgrace.
-I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he’s wrong, than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil.
-You can’t hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree. You can’t hate Africa and not hate yourself.
-My black brothers and sisters – of all religious beliefs, or of no religious beliefs – we all have in common the greatest binding tie we could have. We are all black people!
-Segregation is that which is forced upon an inferior by a superior. Separation is done voluntarily by two equals.
-I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression.
-It’s hard for anyone intelligent to be nonviolent.
-In the past, the greatest weapon the white man has had has been his ability to divide and conquer. If I take my hand and slap you, you don’t even feel it. It might sting you because these digits are separated. But all I have to do to put you back in your place is bring those digits together.
-When we see that our problem is so complicated and so all-encompassing in its intent and content, then we realize that it is no longer a Negro problem, confined only to the American Negro; that it is no longer an American problem, confined only to America, but it is a problem for humanity.
-I want to take Negroes out of the ghetto and put them in good neighborhoods in good houses.
-If you turn the other cheek, you can be enslaved for 1,000 years.
-You can’t legislate good will – that comes through education.
-Good education, housing and jobs are imperatives for the Negroes, and I shall support them in their fight to win these objectives, but I shall tell the Negroes that while these are necessary, they cannot solve the main Negro problem.
-America is the first country that can actually have a bloodless revolution.
-Do you know what integration really means? It means intermarriage. That’s the real point behind it. You can’t have it without intermarriage. And that would result in disintegration of both races.
-Integration will not bring a man back from the grave.
-I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had a great ability to put his finger on the existence and the root of the problem. He was an eloquent spokesman for his point of view and no one can honestly doubt that Malcolm had a great concern for the problems we face as a race.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
-The black student group I was in wrote him a letter saying we’d heard he’d suspended security provisions – people weren’t being searched fully like before. We told him we thought that was not wise, in fact more security should be in place. He wrote back, and after thanking us, said, ‘Brothers, our people are patted down and knocked down every day of their lives. We want them to come in here and know that they are among their brothers and sisters.’
James Turner, Founding Director of African Studies at Cornell University
-I had just moved to Harlem. It was the first night I was there, and I went for a walk and there was a rally going on. Of course, I had heard about Malcolm before that, but it was mostly the kind of negative things they were running about him in the press then. I felt as if I was hearing the truth. I had never heard anyone speak with such clarity and forcefulness. And he just stimulated me. I found if he mentioned a book or a magazine article, I would try to find it. You hear people use that cliche about the University of the Streets. It really was that.
A. Peter Bailey, Journalist
-Here – at this final hour, Harlem has come to bid farewell to one of its brightest hopes – extinguished now, and gone from us forever.. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain – and we will smile. .We will answer and say unto them, ‘Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever really listen to him? .For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him.’
Ossie Davis, Actor
-This was a brother you could believe. There was the sense that he was not in it for something. That was the extraordinary thing about him. He was in it because of his commitment to our liberation.
James Turner, Founding Director of African Studies at Cornell University