Malcolm X (1925 – 1965) burst onto the American Civil Rights landscape in July, 1959, because of a 5-part documentary series entitled, “The Hate That Hate Produced,” produced by Mike Wallace and Louis Lomax. The subject of the series was the Nation of Islam, with key interviews of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Louis X (now known as Louis Farrakhan).
Lomax asked if all white people were evil. “History is best qualified to reward all research, and we don’t have any historic example where we have found that they have, collectively, as a people, done good,” replied Malcolm X.
With that reply and others, the son of a murdered Baptist preacher became the most visible spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Unlike Martin Luther King, Jr. who attended well-known universities, Malcolm X studied library books while serving a ten-year sentence in a Massachusetts prison. It was there he became a convert to the Nation of Islam.
The contrast between the messages proclaimed by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X could not have been greater, especially for that time period. King emphasized integration, equality, nonviolence, and Christian values while Malcolm X preached black supremacy, a separation of black and white Americans, violence when needed, and Islam.
Quotes by Malcolm X:
“Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”
“Christianity is the white man’s religion.”
“Brothers and sisters, the white man has brainwashed us black people to fasten our gaze upon a blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus.”
“The ‘long hot summer’ of 1964 in Harlem, in Rochester, and in other cities, has given an idea of what could happen… For all of those riots were kept contained within where the Negro lived. You let any of these bitter, seething ghettoes all over America receive the right igniting incident, and become really inflamed, and explode, and burst out of their boundaries into where whites live…Black social dynamite is in Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles…the black man’s anger is there, fermenting.”
“Our enemy is the white man.”
“My black brothers and sisters − no one will know who we are…until we know who we are…The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is giving us a true identity, and a true position − the first time they have ever been known to the American black man…”
“I am the angriest black man in America.”
(All quotes from The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, Random House Publishing, © 1964)
Most certainly Malcolm X was a prophet of Islam whose messages shook white Americans and revealed the bitterness, anger, and frustration black Americans felt from their second-class status. At the same time, Malcolm X changed how black Americans thought of themselves.
(Continued in Part 9…the full series to date can be seen here.)