Taking Down the False “Image of Malcolm X”
By Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad 1/22/21
“The press is so powerful in its image-making role,
it can make a criminal look like he’s the victim and
make the victim look like he’s the criminal.”
— Malcolm X (1964)
Making an “Image” of their liking
Malcolm X has been studied, researched, written about, documented and made movies of. Why? He has been dead for almost 56 years yet “Who killed Malcolm X?” or “What happened to Malcolm X?” is thrown up in the face of young Black people who have recently joined the Nation of Islam as though somehow, they are responsible for something that happened before many of their parents were even born much less themselves.
Malcolm X would have no bearing on today if it were not for the fact that the Nation of Islam, although destroyed by Imam Wallace Muhammad, rose from the grave due to the fearless and articulate expression of the Teachings of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad as taught by his best student, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Wallace Muhammad destroyed the old Nation of Islam, hook, line and sinker. He sold off all the properties. He threw away all the books from those properties and told his followers to burn all of their personal books by The Messenger, now the Exalted Christ. Yet the Nation of Islam rose again just by Minister Farrakhan preaching The Messenger’s Teachings starting in people’s homes in 1977. He stayed underground for 7 years until he emerged from the shadows to defend Jesse Jackson from the threats coming from some of the Jewish community as he ran for the office of President of these United States.
What most of us do not know is that these so-called Jews have been preparing for this day for 6,000 years. They have been waiting to prevent the “rise of a ‘messiah’-someone ‘who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement.’ Malcolm X had been the most likely candidate, but his assassination removed that threat. Malcolm was simply ‘the martyr of the movement today…Muhammad was hardly a more viable threat ‘because of his age.’ In the final analysis, Division Five said, Carmichael and King were the only serious candidates.” (FBI’s Secret File on Black America, 1960-1972)
This time the so-called “Chosen People” got the Division 5 of the FBI of the United States government to do their dirty work for them.
What happened to these four “candidates” for the messiah-ship during the 1960s? Malcolm was killed in 1965. His murder was blamed on Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, effectively destroying some of Elijah’s credibility with his own Black people whom he was trying to save. In 1968 they killed Dr. Martin Luther King and ran Stokely Carmichael out of the country. So, who was behind all of this? Who had the motive, means and opportunity for the neutralization of ALL FOUR?
The FBI in 1969 even bragged about how effective it was in causing a rift between The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, which subsequently led to the death of one and the character assassination of the other. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 and Stokely Carmichael fled the country headed for Africa.
I n criminal law circles, the phrase “means, motive, and opportunity” is popular for its summation of the three aspects of a crime that must be established before a verdict about one being “guilty” can be determined in a criminal proceeding. These aspects refer to (1) – the ability of the defendant to commit the crime (means), (2) – the reason the defendant felt the need to commit the crime (motive), and (3) – whether or not the defendant had the chance to commit the crime (opportunity).
So, if we want to determine “Who killed Malcolm X?” then we must establish “means, motive, and opportunity.” We will start off with the most important question, “Who had the ‘motive’ to kill Malcolm X?”
The wise of the so-called Jews knew who Jesus was and they know about the 6,000 year limit to their civilization as evidenced by what their Rabbis wrote in the Babylonian Talmud over 2,000 years ago:
I.89 A. A Tannaite authority of the house of Elijah [said], “For six thousand years the world will exist.
B. “For two thousand it will be desolate, two thousand years [will be the time of] Torah, and two thousand years will be the days of the Messiah.
C. [97B] but on account of our numerous sins what has been lost [of those years, in which the Messiah should have come but has not come] has been lost.
They admit that for their first 2,000 years they were “desolate” or locked up in the caves of Europe as taught to us by The Messenger and now proven by archaeological research. For 2,000 years they were under the teachings of Moses (Musa) and the Torah. For 2,000 years they would be in the time of the “Messiah,” which they claim was not Jesus, but yet calculate their time as though he was. How wicked can you be as to deny something happened, but use it to calculate what time it is? We are at the end of their 6,000 years and they are looking for the modern Messiah to do to him what they did to their Messiah, Jesus; crucify him.
According to the FBI files they have been monitoring The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad since 1942 and Malcolm X since he joined on with Elijah while he was in prison in 1950. They really increased their surveillance and wire taping of both of them starting in 1957. The major newspapers like the New York Times started doing articles on the Nation of Islam in earnest in 1963. An article by Walter Lippman written in 1993 lays out the sequence of events that got the New York Times attention:
How The New York Times Distorted Malcolm X’s Views on Self-Defense
by Walter Lippmann, 1993
“Prior to 1963, coverage of the Nation of Islam in the New York Times was sporadic at best. Its attitude toward self-defense or toward “violence” was not discussed.
1963 was a turning point in the liberation struggle of Black people in the United States. Marked by an increasing militancy, a rejection of tokenism and gradualism, the year saw the explosion of the Birmingham, Alabama ghetto in May. In June there was a massive protest march of over 200,000 in Detroit, Michigan initiated by Black radicals. Finally, in August, there was the better known and more politically moderate March on Washington.
The growing militancy of the freedom struggle was in part due to the pressure put on the mainstream civil rights organizations by the Nation of Islam and Malcolm, who sharply criticized their weaknesses and hesitations, and their inability to prevent racist attacks against Black people. The Nation of Islam grew considerably at that time. Its criticism of the mainstream civil rights organizations was widely felt in the ghetto to reflect reality. In good measure this was due to Malcolm’s ability to translate his political concepts into the language of the Black masses.
For all these reasons, the New York Times began, in 1963, to increase its coverage of the Nation of Islam. The coverage varied widely in quality. One excellent series by M.S. Handler appeared in which Malcolm’s views on political developments of the day were faithfully recorded. Handler accurately reported Malcolm’s remarks on self-defense:
We don’t preach hatred and violence. But we believe that if a four-legged or a two-legged, dog attacks a Negro, he should be killed. We only believe in defending ourselves against attack.(May 10, 1963)
… The New York Times, as the most authoritative defender of the capitalist social system of the United States, thus had a vital interest in preventing the broad circulation and acceptance of Malcolm’s ideas.
To accomplish this, it was necessary to misrepresent the views he actually held, thus making him appear ridiculous, crazy and/or socially dangerous, as George Breitman explained in ‘Malcolm X: The Man and His Ideas. ‘ In this respect, the Times set the tone, editorially, for a general nationwide campaign of press distortions of Malcolm’s actual views.
A final, and not unimportant aim, was to prepare the public for the murder of Malcolm X. That is why, as we shall see, one of the key points the Times editors hammered away at, was the lie that Malcolm favored violence.”
So, before Malcolm was killed in an execution style assassination in 1965, the New York Times was already distorting the “image of Malcolm.” This distortion of his image continued after his death as researched and analyzed by a Ph.D. candidate, Lisa Marie Gill, in her dissertation entitled, “FROM HOMEBOY TO AMERICAN ICON: IMAGE TRANSFORMATION OF MALCOLM X, 1965-1999. (University of Maryland, 2010)
This dissertation examines and analyzes the transformation of Malcolm X’s image from the representation as the “Angriest Black Man in America,” to the intellectual, political American leader of the 1990s. Malcolm was recognized for his outspoken defense of oppressed black and poor people, his leadership in Islam, and transformation from an ostracized political figure to an authority on the plight of black Americans. Recently, X has become a symbol of American individuality, a champion of human rights. Seen by contemporaries and future admirers as the quintessential black man, X’s image has been appropriated to represent facets of black male identity to –mainstream culture, rendering it consumable to a variety of groups…Unlike the images of other civil rights leaders, X’s image was contested when appropriated by the mainstream. Analysis of major developments, (X, the postal stamp of 1999, material produced during the 1990s, etc.), will demonstrate how the image circulated from the sole possession of the black community to American mainstream culture. The battle for control over the representations of his image and its meanings can be construed as the struggle between retaining a black champion and creating an American icon. Ultimately, the goal was to establish Malcolm as the ideal black man, who not only predicted the trajectory of the movement, but also established and demonstrated racial pride in black American manhood, in spite of the toll that this position took on his life.”
Her dissertation then goes on very effectively to show how “American mainstream culture” manipulated and used the “image of Malcolm” to facilitate their agenda of reducing him from a “revolutionary” figure fighting for the whole of Black people to an individual angry Black man trying to prove his manhood. Malcolm was lost to the Black community as a disciplined, intelligent, right-guided leader to now his “image” being used to steer young Black youth from the ghetto streets to the neighborhood cemetery going out in a blaze of gunfire from rival “gang” members.
Two recent events have given us an opportunity to witness the “image of Malcolm” being transformed right in front of our eyes. This was done by the same people who had the most motivation to sacrifice him, then use the “image” that they fabricated to raise up before the people whenever the Nation of Islam began to get a renewed footing in the Black community: 1. The release of the missing chapters not included in Alex Haley’s “Autobiography of Malcolm X” (AMX) and 2. The made for TV series, the “Godfather of Harlem.”
Alex Haley’s so-called “Autobiography of Malcolm X” should serve as a warning to every prominent leader, that “If you intend to write an AUTOBIOGRAPHY, be sure to live long enough to Check it before it is Published.” This so-called “autobiography” is a glaring example of how even the words spoken by someone taken out of context and switched in terms of timing can be used to completely distort the relationship between “cause and effect” and give the impression that an innocent person had a motive to kill Malcolm while hiding the hand of the real killers.
I first read this so-called “autobiography” when I was 15 years old and attending a white prep school on full scholarship in New England. The impression the book left with me was that The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad became jealous of Malcolm and had the FOI to assassinate him. Also, in the middle of this book I was awakened by the revelation that “the white man is the devil” but by the end of the book I was left confused again to the nature of white people, their origin and motives as a people. Instead of understanding that they were a “race of devils” and therefore the solution of the race problem could only be solved by “separation”, I was left with the daunting and dangerous task of checking each white person one by one to see if they were harmless or poisonous.
I was also given the impression that Malcolm X was outgrowing his teacher and it took a break from the confines of Nation of Islam’s dogma for the political genius of Malcolm to blossom into relevant political strategies to “overcome” the shackles of the American society. After Alex Haley’s untimely death in 1992, his belongings, including chapters of the “autobiography” that were not included in the book (published eight months after Malcolm’s death) were sold at auction. After these documents changed hands a few times over the years, they were finally made available to the general public in November of 2019 in the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Book Division of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, NYC.
The following analysis uses a portion of Missing Chapter 9 whose title was “The Negro” dictated by Malcolm to Haley in 1963 and the relevant section of Chapter 16: “Out” taken from the full 1992 edition of the “Autobiography of Malcolm X.” We have provided the full Missing Chapter 9 in an appendix and suggest that you take the time to read it. Doing so you will see that if Malcolm had lived and this chapter was fully highlighted in a real autobiography, the breach between he and his teacher may have been mended.
The timing and content of missing chapter 9 are significant for two reasons: 1. It was dictated in 1963 before Malcolm split from the Nation of Islam but subsequently portions of this chapter were placed at a later date in the so-called “autobiography”, namely 1964 after the split and 2. In the missing chapter 9 Malcolm gives full credit to The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad for the political strategy outlined, while in the words he supposedly said which were placed in 1964 in his so-called “autobiography,” Malcolm did not mention his leader and the reader is given the distinct impression that Malcolm developed this strategy on his own after splitting up from his teacher that he supposedly outgrew.
As we stated earlier, 1963 was a watershed moment in that the New York Times all of a sudden became very interested in Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. At a later time, we will discuss the speech that Malcolm gave on June 23, 1963 at Rev. Adam Clayton Powel’s church in Harlem, NYC where Malcolm rocked a church filled with Black Christians on the idea of a “Black Revolution.” Malcolm had to pause numerous time for thunderous applause for one of his most anti-white “wolf” speeches, which must have made the hair on the backs of the “powers-that-be” stand straight up.
In that 25 minute speech Malcolm mentioned “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad” 29 times and “Separation” as the solution for America’s race problem 15 times. Right around the corner from Rev. Powell’s church was another rally being held by the more “meek and mild” civil rights leaders who were trying to respond to the uprising of Black people sparked by the murder of Medgar Evers in Mississippi in June of 1963. If the government had paid informants in both rallies, which of course they did, the idea of Black Christians accepting the direction and guidance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad over other more moderate “Negroes” must have been a “call to arms” for the powers that ran America. In retrospect we now know more about how the FBI using COINTELPRO tactics went to work on causing the split between Malcolm and his teacher during that year.
This developing grass root movement coming from the Black masses was being fermented and lead by members of the Nation of Islam, and according to Malcolm himself in our recently discovered missing chapter 9, under the guidance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Below we compare what Malcolm dictated in 1963 to Alex Haley before he left the Nation of Islam compared to what and where Haley placed those words and ideas in the finished book after Malcolm left.
First, we will compare who Malcolm felt was best qualified to lead Black America in 1963. In the missing chapter Malcolm over and over again said that the masses recognize the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as the leader that they trusted. However, in the book (AMX) Malcolm praised himself as the best leader for Black people and those statements were placed in a position of the book that would have placed them in the year 1964.
One could argue that Malcolm changed his mind after the split from the Nation of Islam, but why lie and make the reader think that he changed his mind before he actually changed his mind? The answer is that the Enemy was developing the idea of a philosophical split before it happened, because the Enemy was threatened by the united front that Elijah and Malcolm were developing as a team. If chapter 9 was actually put in the so-called “autobiography,” then the reader’s understanding of who wanted Malcolm killed would have shifted from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to the so-called Jews working in the media and within the FBI as they tracked down the Messiah.
Let’s go further.
In 1963 what was Elijah and Malcolm’s plan to utilize the energy from the brewing Black Revolution? According to Malcolm’s words in 1963 the Honorable
Elijah Muhammad introduced the idea of the “black bloc vote” in 1963 and not Malcolm by himself in 1964. The editors of this so-called “autobiography” decided to give Malcolm all of the credit while, in actuality, Malcolm gave the Honorable Elijah Muhammad all of the credit. So, they made Malcolm the genius and the Messenger the sourpuss as they were plotting all along on how to “kill two birds with one stone.”
Let’s go further.
Okay, it gets more interesting as Malcolm spells out the benefits of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s plan to utilize the “black bloc vote” to force the candidates to consider the “special interests of the black race”, if they wanted to get elected. The editors of this so-called “autobiography” almost lifted these same words verbatim from Malcolm’s interviews but they carefully removed all references to The Messenger to further the idea of a split and Malcolm “going ahead” of The Messenger. However, Malcolm’s own words reflect that he was doing the bidding of the Messenger, not going ahead of him.
Instead, John F. Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963 and Malcolm made that “chicken coming home to roost” misstatement in December of the same year. Just imagine what would have happened in 1964, if Kennedy had not been killed and Malcolm had not slipped? Where would Black people be today if this chain of events had not happened? So instead of us asking each other “Who killed Malcolm X?”, we would be benefiting from a political move that would have “changed our destiny, over night.”
The Subtle Replacing of the Messenger with Malcolm
The goal of the writers and editors was to get close enough to Malcolm to determine the direction of the Messenger and how to pull Malcolm away from him. They planned to kill him, blame it on the Messenger then replace our Messiah with Malcolm and blame the death of their choice as the Messiah (our “Black Prince”), on the real Messiah (The Messenger). An indication of their intent was how they systematically brought the light of the Messenger down and increased the light of Malcolm.
The table below is an analysis of how many times Malcolm referred to the Messenger as the “Honorable Elijah Muhammad” in the Missing Chapter 9 and how he is referred to in the published “autobiography”. We see that when Malcolm spoke of the Messenger, he called him the “Honorable Elijah Muhammad” most all of the time. In fact, he did it 21 times in the missing chapter and NEVER called him “Mr. Muhammad.” However, in chapter 16 in the so-called “autobiography” (AMX) they call the Messenger the “Honorable Elijah Muhammad” one time while calling him “Mr. Muhammad” 79 times. When we look at the entire book, we see that the author and editors referred to the Messenger as the “Honorable Elijah Muhammad” only 32 times in 160,974 words, yet call him “Mr. Muhammad” 297 times.
“Islam is Mathematics and Mathematics is Islam.”
When we compare the 5,144 words in the missing Chapter 9 to the number of times Malcolm used the “Honorable Elijah Muhammad”, we see that he used this term once every 245 words. However, the author and editors only used the term the “Honorable Elijah Muhammad” once in every 11,947 words in chapter 16 and in the entire book of 160,974 words, only once every 5,030 words. They decided to remove the honor-ability of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and replace him with his student, Malcolm X. Their trick worked up to now, but now they have been exposed as the ones behind the murder of Malcolm X and the robbery of a people of their chances for Unity.
However, these so-called Jews have convinced many in the world that they are God’s Chosen People and the friend of Black people in America. But they are not “Chosen” and they are not our friends. They have stolen our Identity and almost stole our inheritance. They exposed themselves by making a false image of Malcolm which they raise up periodically to destroy the love of God’s people for their Messiah, The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his servant, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: Missing Chapter 9
1)The Western World is sick. The American society – with song of Christianity providing the white man with the illusion that what he has done to the black man is “right” – is as sick as Babylon. And the black man here in this wilderness, the so-called “Negro,” is the sickest of them all.
The black man here is the world’s only race of people that tries to get social, and civic, and economic equality by begging for it.
The black man here is this nation’s only large minority that has gone for one hundred years as the biggest drain on social welfare, as the forever ghetto-dweller, the forever most-underemployed, the forever most-ununified race.
The black man here, man for man, is the forever biggest consumer at the same time that he is the biggest non-producer. And when you have got that combination, you have got –automatically – a man that somebody else has got to produce and provide for.
The so-called “Negro” here is a perfect parasite image—the black tick under the delusion that he is progressing because he is riding on the back of the fat, three-stomached cow that is white America.
(2)To give you an example of what I’m talking about: in New York City, I’ve watched the already Croesus-rich white man unable to get another skyscraper hotel finished before the integration-hungry so-called “Negro” is booking into it with his conventions. He’s happy because at least he is rubbing “integrated” shoulders with white conventioneers is the plush carpeted lobbies. But who do they represent? They represent the giant industries and corporations of this nation. And all the black-owned construction enterprises that could be pooled in this nation would not erect one black-owned small skyscraper.
Or you can take the national joke—and disgrace—of the Negro and the Cadillac he loves so much. Wherever you see a white man in a Cadillac, you know he first got himself a Cadillac bank account, and then a Cadillac home, in that order. The black man is the only one you ever see riding in a Cadillac as his status symbol, to impress everybody with how well he is doing, while he is living in a subsidized housing project, and is barely able to meet his monthly financing company note for the big car. And the black man at the bottom, the slum dweller, it is a well-known fact, is one of the nation’s major markets for the second-hand Cadillac.
3. The world’s best-known, most exclusive, most expensive whiskey—imported Scotch. I don’t even need to tell you who the retailers have discovered drinks sixty per cent of all the Scotch whiskey that this nation imports.
I’m not saying this to ridicule my black brother’s shortcomings. I really hate to talk so hard about him, but the reason is that of all the groups of people in this nation, he is the sickest. And we who have been shown the truth about ourselves by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad have been taught that the sickest man needs the strongest medicine.
The black man here in America, in every way he can be looked at and examined, is in a pitiful state of sickness. Sick economically, Politically. Mentally. Socially. Spiritually. Sick in his leadership. And he is “integration” sick. And he is “progress” sick.
The black man’s so-called “progress” is this country is always being compared against that of other non-white people about the world. But the best way to get at the truth about his progress is to compare him against the immigrant groups who have come to this country, and since the black man came.
Only the explorers and adventurers, some French, English, (4) Spanish and Dutch, were here before the black man. He came when these settlers wanted slaves, both chattel and indentured, for free labor. This black son of toil for over 300 years has helped to unload ship hulls of the knapsacks of waves of immigrants. Italians, Irish, Jews, Polish, Germans, and others, the black man watched them come down the gangplanks, every color and creed, from the slums, the ghettos, the prisons and bogs and pogroms of all of Europe.
It goes on right up until today when they come by jet. Few of them arrive even speaking this country’s language. And after three centuries, today this black man who saw them all off the boat, is still on the bottom: All of the immigrants have tramped across his back.
And where is he, the black man? Here is this sick, Christianity-duped, white man-duped, brainwashed race today, sittin-in and kneeling-in at the bottom of the ladder, looking up and hollering “I’m just as good as you” at the second and third and fourth-generation immigrants who are now the first-class citizens, and the aristocrats, of this so-called “melting pot” country. Here is the black man begging immigrants who came after him to throw him a few more of their crumbs, to crack open some of the gates they have erected against him.
(5)Two hundred years the black man had been here when the French gave to this country that statue that’s out in New York harbor beckoning to every downtrodden group on earth with its famous lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free—” Today in the 1960s the sons of the immigrants are on their way to the moon, and the black man is still tired, he is still poor, he is still the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
To those of us who have been awakened from our mental sickness by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s teachings, it is almost impossible to comprehend how a whole black race was so thoroughly conditioned, in every facet of its existence, to be a disorganized, dependent, beggar race. While the Jew, the Irish, the Italians, the Polish, the other minorities, gazed through the portholes with even less than the black man had, be was spending his time and energy pleading and preaching and praying for help from somewhere else, from somebody else.
But the immigrants, when they landed, who did they look for help? Themselves:
The penniless Jew took what he had right in his knapsack, in fact, the smallest-known tools of production—pins and needles. From hand-sewing in his Lower East Side New York City (6) ghetto rooms, the Jew organized neighborhood sewing circles, progressed to sweatshop lofts, and he was on his way to the present largest and richest industry in the largest and richest city, the New York garment district, that today clothes this nation. Other Jews went for homemade pushcarts and junk wagons and they built an old American cliché, “A pushcart today, a corner tomorrow,” and today on those corners are giant mercantile establishments.
The Italians were the poorest peasants ever to come here from Europe. And they, starting from this nothing, have built in this country much of its trucking industry, its construction industry, its architecture industry, and the world’s biggest bank.
The Irish, a starving huddled mass from Europe, in two generations have given this country a President. They have given to this country his baby brother Attorney General who has held up to the black man, who unloaded their grandaddy’s knapsack, that he, the black man, may sit in a President chair in the year Two Thousand.
Even the Chinese. “Not a Chinaman’s Chance” is another one of this so-called “melting pot’s” clichés. The early condition of the Chinese here was, in some ways, worse then even the slaves’. But the Chinese, unified in their heritage, and (7) under their own leaders, have built their own communities that are self-sustaining, independent, self-governed, self-financed—and the Chinese, as a result, demand, and get, respect.
The black man as a group in America, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches, needs to take a long, hard, critical look at how all other groups have made true progress.
If he does this, it will come clear why they have realized the American dream, and why this so-called “Negro” is still in the ghettos by the millions, asleep and dreaming.
Until the coming of The Messenger, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the black masses have always listened to the white man, and to his hand-picked “Negro leaders,” the white man’s parrots. Millions of dollars have been spent by this checkerboard team, analyzing the dilemma of the downtrodden so-called “Negro,” And every analysis, every report, has only whitewashed the true reason why this black man is still on the bottom.
To get at this true reason, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s teaching goes back to the start of the black race in this country, which the white man and his black cohorts always avoid. Every black man in America needs to fix in his mind, and (8) never forget that in his native homeland, Africa, he was part of a proud race, rich in a culture and heritage that dated back to a time when the white race lived in caves in Europe. And the slavetraders who came to Africa repaid the black trust with an era of voracious kidnapping that became, at its height, the world’s biggest business, and that was morally the most grotesque crime that the world has ever known.
Whenever I hear that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is teaching “hate” today, I think that the white man is in no moral position to ever accuse any black man of hate.
The black man here in America today, clutching at the knees of the white man, begging to be “equal” and begging to “integrate,” while the white man kicks and restricts and fends and bombs him off—this black man needs to wake up and realize that this is the white race who, once the pure black African was here, began the systematic stripping away of every vestige of his former cultures—which was the beginning of the creation by the white man of the “Negro.”
In one generation, the African’s language, religion and art were forgotten. For the next hundred years, the black blood was polluted by the sperm of the white man. Here began to emerge the white creation, “the Negro”—the innocent, happy-go-lucky, (9) grinning, dancing child of nature, who had been inoculated with enough white man’s Christianity to prevent any reversion to his original “heathen” state.
Part of the “Negro’s” survival technique until this day has been to let the white man hear what he knew he wanted to hear from his creation, and show him the image he wanted to see. And the white man has gullibly believed the Negro survival ruse. It has helped him not have to face the enormity of his crime. It has helped him not have to question his whole “white superiority” structure, that was based upon his crime—and which continues today.
Sometimes, when I am at a microphone, sometimes when I am beset by white critics, or their deluded black puppets, my voice will grown rough and shake when I think of it all. I am moved to anger by the black puppet “leaders” who, even with educations, cannot cut through the white man’s miasma of “advice” and “guidance” and Christianity, to recognize for themselves, and then to help the black masses see their plight in its true light.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches the black man to first cure his economic problem, to start ending his dependence on the white man. The black man, to begin his own economic (10) improvement, should quit flinging away on foolish symbol luxuries a major part of the $20 billion a year that he has. He teaches that the black man should have the sense to summon the self-discipline to do the thing that every last one of the immigrant groups did. He should pool both his money, and the talents that he has, into building something of his own, for his kind, where he can hire himself.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, to the maximum of his ability, has established in numerous cities small businesses where black hires black, where black patronizes black, black communities are encouraged to see that they do not have to depend upon having the white man come in and own the businesses with the result that all day the white man takes in the black community’s money, and then each night he takes the money away to enrich himself and his community where the black man is not wanted.
The black man can achieve true progress if he will turn his energies to the pattern that every immigrant group followed. There was not a one that got caught up in the miasma of buying symbol “status” when they had only pennies. They, instead, pooled their pennies. They formed their own benevolent societies (11) for self-help. There was not a group among the European immigrants that went on a mass spree of picketing and begging to be economic equals. Their own small benevolent societies grew into banks and lending agencies that financed groups and individuals in starting small businesses—and the little businesses became the giant chains and the industries where the black man still is “protesting” today.
What could the black man do? What could he have done? Just one example. Instead of so much effort to escape being black, so much trying to be like the white man, he might have the sense to wake up from his sleep and put to use for himself the image that the white man won’t let him escape. Take the fact, consider the fact that three centuries of white people have loved black cooking so much that hardly any image is planted deeper in the American mind. Aunt Jemima, beaming and black—used by the white man—has sold billions of pancakes. Her counterpart Uncle Ben has sold shiploads of rice—for the white man. Where is the black money pooled into an industry hiring black in the total processing of frozen black Southern cooking that could share in the frozen food millions?
Where is this nation’s black-owned chains of black-cooking restaurants? In the fall of 1963, Aunt Jemima moved from boxed pancake flour to a nation-spanning restaurant franchise. Among the features are 37 different kinds of pancakes and fried chicken (12) that, according to the full-page ads’ copywriter, “—reduces a Southern senator to tears.”
Guess who franchises the chain of Aunt Jemima restaurants?
We are a wandering, pitiful, rootless, homeless people. We are spiritually sick as we have been separated for hundreds of years from Islam wish was the true religion of our ancestors. The alien white man’s Christianity, which he imposed upon us, had duped us to wait for our heaven in the hereafter while continuing to turn the other cheek as he uses our people in the process of enjoying his heaven here on the planet earth.
We are a mentally sick people because we have been separated from the heritage of a knowledge, and an appreciation and a pride of our true selves. We don’t recognize our true language if we should happen to hear it spoken. We don’t even know our true names. We will go on being “the Negro,” the bastard creation of the American white civilization, unless we can anchor as black men back to our original Islamic heritage. As the white man’s “Negro,” his “nigger”—terms out of the garbage pail of ethnic classifications, terms that were born with the raping pollution of a pure black race—we are (13) regarded as garbage, we have been treated for 300 years as garbage until we have been caused to unconsciously feel ourselves garbage, jammed and ghettoed in the cesspools of cities by the legal and illegal strictures of the white man.
We are a socially sick people. We are like the Western deserts’ tumbleweed, rolling and tumbling whichever way white wind blows. And the white man is like the cactus, deeply rooted, with spines to keep us off. Nameless, rootless, we are ostracized, run from, treated like lepers, as though we carried some plague. “Stay out of my Deerfields, my Bronxvilles, my Chevy Chase. These are the communities that we built for our kind’s exclusive upper class. Stay out of our Trumbull Parks. They are our projects for our immigrant poor. You embarrass our Christian consciences when you try to push your way into our antiseptic Christian midst, including our antiseptic Christian churches, where we make it most clear that you are not wanted. Push long enough and you will force away our façade of Christian conscience, and you then will see exposed the beast in us.”
How sad it is to those of us who have been awakened to see the truth by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to observe two (14) of the most pitiful afflictions of the present-day black man here in America. How, snatched from his roots and his own kind over 300 years ago, he has been fed and bathed in white-good, black-bad inferiority until, accepting it, he has grown to hate himself and his kind, which helps to keep him a divided, fragmented people for the white man to use. And how, as a natural result of hating himself and his kind, the black man has caught himself up in a craze of wanting to “integrate” with the white man, to sit socially in his parlor, leading to the freaks of intermarriage.
As a natural result of the black man hating himself and his own kind, we see today the ultimate absurdity of him trying, even, to look like the white man. Champagne blond and pink-red wigs over black women’s faces. The natural kinky hair of black men “relaxed” with hot lye in chemical starch to look “straight,” like white man’s hair. This madness can be seen displayed and paraded by the most menial, the most poverty-stricken black people, in every city, every town.
There are no “look white” trappings on the pure black man, the African whose forefathers escaped the white kidnappers—who comes today into this country, wearing clothes that are strange, speaking a language that is strange, and achieving things that (15) the “Negro” would be considered insane for even asking here in this country where he was created. The reason is that the white man respects the African. The reason is the African knows who he is, he knows where he has come from, he has a mission, he knows where he is going back to—and he owns something. So he is respected. Automatically. As the black man here, for the reverse reasons, automatically is not respected.
It should have shocked sense into every black man in America when not long ago, two pure black Africans came to New York, and went to the World Bank, and borrowed $150 million dollars.
Every black man in America in America should have asked himself—how many of them would have been required to co-sign to borrow $150 million dollars?
Not long before those two Africans came here, Ebony Magazine ran a highly successful feature, identifying “America’s One Hundred Richest Negroes.” Instantly, the white man’s communications network flung this propaganda bonanza to the far corners of the globe, “proving,” once again, the “progress” of the Negro.
All of these one hundred richest Negroes together weren’t worth $150 million dollars. (16) And the supreme irony, the Negro “progress” propaganda never would mention, how many immigrant sons in America are millionaire, how many are, individually, worth more than all of those Negroes together.
Don’t tell the followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad about the “progress” of the American black man.
Don’t ask the Black Muslims in America to sit-in and slide-in and beg-in for the “privilege” to “integrate” with the white man. We have been awakened to look back over 300 years of the white man’s acts, which show us the proof of his true nature and intent. The white man’s foot has been on our necks in even his acts of “benevolence.” The black man is expected to be grateful for gifts of crumbs from what has been made through his own exploitation. The “token” offered today is only a modern version of the onetime plantation Christmas party for the slaves, with all of their black faces permitted in the yard, to look up at the porch where ol’ Massa and ol’ Missey stood beaming. The crumbs of token equality, token integration, offered today are grudgingly offered—and they are like a man who has had a foot-long knife blade sunk to the hilt in your back, and he gradually draws it out six inches, (17) and expects you to be grateful.
Even if he pulls the knife out all the way, the wound will leave a scar.
One of the white man’s favorite tricks, through his “liberals” and through his puppet “Negro leader” mouthpieces, is to keep flooding the black masses and the rest of the world with propaganda that the black man here is getting better off in America in every way, every day. But the true nature and the true intent of the former slavemaster is glaring every way and every day in the headlines:
You Can’t Enter Here
You Can’t Ride Here
You Can’t Work Here
You Can’t Play Here
You Can’t Study Here
You Can’t Eat Here
You Can’t Drink Here
You Can’t Walk Here
You Can’t Live Here
And in this Christian country, the Christianity-blinded so-called “Negro” even is told “You Can’t Worship Here.” Sunday mornings at eleven o’clock is the most segregated hour in America.
(18) The greatest miracle that Christianity has achieved in America is that the black man in Christian hands has not grown violent. It is a miracle that 20 million black people have not risen up *against their oppressors, in which they would have been justified by every ethical criterion, by every moral criterion, and even by democratic tradition. The miracle is that a black nation of people have so fervently continued to believe in a turn-the-other-cheek and heaven-for-you-after-you-die philosophy that they have remained a peaceful people while catching all the centuries of hell that they have caught here in this white man’s heaven. The miracle is that the white man’s puppet “Negro leaders’—his preachers, and the educated Negroes, laden with degrees, and others who have been let to wax fat off their poor black brothers—have been able to hold the black masses quiet for a hundred years before now.
But the power of the old-style puppet “Negro leader” now, suddenly, is all but vanished. He vanished when the black man, in the mass, reacted as 20 million individuals to graphic evidences of white man’s beastliness that he always will show if he is pressed. Every black man in America at least vicariously felt the waterhoses and cattle prodders lunging, snarling (19) dogs, and the bullets in the back and the bombs in the Christian houses of worship. Those were in the South. And in the North, the awakened black man, every one, has felt the wind of the “liberal” emptying cities for surburban escape from the black man, and black men see the unemployment lines for them reaching in some cities a higher ratio then was experienced even during the depression—as both automation and labor union restrictive hiring policies close in about the black worker who has been kept at the bottom, always the last hired and first fired—and the first to be criticized.
The black man, sick as he is, has indeed needed criticism. The black man, sick as he is, has indeed needed analysis—and advice. The black man’s trouble has not been reached by the old-style “Negro leader,” the one full of big words, the one who is always attending seminars and symposiums and conferences, rubbing integrated shoulders with white “liberal” bosses as they jointly, gravely decide the next educated scientific and sociological approach to the problem of the black masses.
This your Uncle Thomas, Ph.D.—the one that has the nerve to attack us, the Black Muslims; the one that makes his living consoling the white man, who joins him in calling us (20) “fanatics,” “hate-mongers,” “racists,” “extremists.” This is the one who has kept the white man thinking that he had his finger on the pulse of the black masses, that he knew what they were thinking.
The white man needs to wake up. He needs to recognize the professional Uncle Thomas for the parrot that he is. The white man needs to ask himself how did it come as a total surprise to these professional “leaders”—and, of course, to the white man who believed in him—that suddenly, all over the country, the mass of black people began to erupt?
A very popular joke among the American black people, popular because it is so dangerously true, goes this way: a great crowd of angry blacks was marching along, and their former traditional “leader” was dashing alongside, pleading to any who would listen, “How am I going to lead if you all don’t tell me where you’re going?”
These are the Negroes whom nobody, black or white, has been able to strike bedrock among, except the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, through his teaching and preaching of the naked truth about the plight and the condition of the black man here in America. For these are the Negroes who are living in the plight and condition.
(21)This downtrodden, mass Negro, who lives jam-packed in the ghettos of the great cities, and in the smaller cities’ “Negro districts”—this nameless, faceless mass who are eight million adult, qualified voters, who do not even bother to register to vote because they have seen, and lived through, so much of the white man’s trickery…
The long yearning of this great mass of black people for a true black leader is answered by the coming of The Messenger, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
And why is this? And why is it that we know that this great mass is in sympathy with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad—all but the small minority of misguided so-called Negroes who have been able to gather enough of the white man’s crumbs, enough of his trappings, that they consider themselves to be “equal” and “integrated”?
The reason is that the black mass recognizes that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is the only black leader whose sole and total commitment is to the black man’s cause. The black mass recognizes that he is the only one who is not weakened, who is not controlled, who is not compromised, not one iota, by “liberal” white infiltration.
(22) Not one cent of white money finances the Honorable Elijah Muhammad—to “advise” and contain him. The Black Muslims are not a black body with white heads. The Black Muslims are all-black.
The black mass recognizes, then, the only authentic black leader—the only one free, and with the courage, and with the mission, to squarely look the white man in his face and tell him, for the first time that he has ever heard it, the naked truth about himself and his record of crimes.
The white man should take a close second scrutiny at the fact that the first black leader who has ever been able to harshly criticize the black masses in America—and survive as a leader—is the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
The reason this is the black masses understand that his criticisms—the first time that they have heard such—are for the purpose of shocking the black man into awakening and seeing his massive, never-tapped potentials in this nation.
And, in a word, what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is successfully spreading rapidly among the black masses is the Message—to integrate with themselves…to sit-in with their own kind…to dive-into their own problems…to wade-into their own lethargy—and, through doing these things, to rise up through their own efforts.
(23) “First things come first,” we are taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
We are taught that the ultimate solution to the terrible race problem that has been a cancer in this country for 300 years is the separation of the black man from the white man. In this way only will both the black man and the white man be freed from the miasma of lies and frustrations and anxieties that, respectively, surround them.
But now, for the first step toward solving the black man’s immediate problem, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad—first things first—is, through his followers, advising the black mass to activate America’s greatest untapped source of political bloc strength.
In the 1960 Presidential election, 3 million black votes were cast, the majority of them in a bloc.
Eight million black people—a larger bloc—did not vote.
Candidates Richard Nixon missed becoming the current President of the United States by a popular margin of only 110,550 votes.
More black men than that did not bother to vote in New York City alone.
(24) The politician is a realist. If he sees an 11 million black bloc vote, an unquestionable balance of power, to elect him, or to eject him, then he will respond to black needs. He will not mouth words, as has been the case historically, but he will positively act…on the federal level, the state level, the local level—in both the North and the South.
A crash program is needed to elevate the black man to where he can be independent, instead of a dependent.
The black man in America needs to be gotten out of the mire more urgently than the white man needs to get to the moon.
The black block that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is recommending can, overnight, take hold of the black man’s destiny in America. Beginning with the coming 1964 Presidential election, the black man, through his press, his lobby, his leaders, his organizations of all kinds, and through his personal letters of query to each candidate, can demand a clear statement of intent with regard to the black man’s struggle.
A qualified council of true black leaders would assess the candidates promises, and select which candidate should be supported by the black bloc…by black men voting for the first time not as Democrats, or as Republicans—labels that (25) mean nothing to them—but voting for the first time in the special interests of the black race, a fact that would have been made plain to the parties, to their platforms, and to candidates.
All of these “protests,” all of this kneeling and pleading can cease. The black man, for the first time in history in this country, can quit begging. The black man, wielding the black bloc vote that is the “first thing first” recommended by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, can, like every other unified, special-interest bloc in America, begin to make demands.
–end chapter 9–
“Autobiography of Malcolm X” (AMX) Chapter 16
AMX CHAPTER SIXTEEN (entire chapter): “OUT”
In nineteen sixty-one, Mr. Muhammad’s condition grew suddenly worse.
As he talked with me when I visited him, when he talked with anyone, he would unpredictably begin coughing harder, and harder, until his body was wracked and jerking in agonies that were painful to watch, and Mr. Muhammad would have to take to his bed.
We among Mr. Muhammad’s officials, and his family, kept the situation to ourselves, while we could. Few other Muslims became aware of Mr. Muhammad’s condition until there were lastminute cancellations of long-advertised personal appearances at some big Muslim rallies. Muslims knew that only something really serious would ever have stopped the Messenger from keeping his promise to be with them at their rallies. Their questions had to be answered, and the news of our leader’s illness swiftly spread through the Nation of Islam.
Anyone not a Muslim could not conceive what the possible loss of Mr. Muhammad would have meant among his followers. To us, the Nation of Islam was Mr. Muhammad. What bonded us into the best organization black Americans ever had was every Muslim’s devout regard for Mr. Muhammad as black America’s moral, mental, and spiritual reformer.
Stated another way, we Muslims regarded ourselves as moral and mental and spiritual examples for other black Americans, because we followed the personal example of Mr. Muhammad. Black communities discussed with respect how Muslims were suspended if they lied, gambled, cheated, or smoked. For moral crimes, such as fornication or adultery, Mr. Muhammad personally would mete out sentences of from one to five years of “isolation,” if not complete expulsion from the Nation. And Mr. Muhammad would punish his officials more readily than the newest convert in a mosque. He said that any defecting official betrayed both himself and his position as a leader and example for other Muslims. For every Muslim, in his rejection of immoral temptation, the beacon was Mr. Muhammad. All Muslims felt as one that without his light, we would all be in darkness.
As I have related, doctors recommended a dry climate to ease Mr. Muhammad’s condition. Quickly we found up for sale in Phoenix the home of the saxophone player, Louis Jordan. The Nation’s treasury purchased the home, and Mr. Muhammad soon moved there.
Only by being two people could I have worked harder in the service of the Nation of Islam. I had every gratification that I wanted. I had helped bring about the progress and national impact such that none could call us liars when we called Mr. Muhammad the most powerful black man in America. I had helped Mr. Muhammad and his other ministers to revolutionize the American black man’s thinking, opening his eyes until he would never again look in the same fearful, worshipful
way at the white man. I had participated in spreading the truths that had done so much to help the American black man rid himself ofthe mirage that the white race was made up of “superior” beings. I had been a part of the tapping of something in the black secret soul.
If I harbored any personal disappointment whatsoever, it was that privately I was convinced that our Nation of Islam could be an even greater force in the American black man’s overall struggle-if we engaged in more _action_. By that, I mean I thought privately that we should have amended, or relaxed, our general non-engagement policy. I felt that, wherever black people committed themselves, in the Little Rocks and the Birminghams and other places, militantly disciplined Muslims should also be there-for all the world to see, and respect, and discuss.
It could be heard increasingly in the Negro communities: “Those Muslims _talk_ tough, but they never _do_ anything, unless somebody bothers Muslims.” I moved around among outsiders more than most other Muslim officials. I felt the very real potentiality that, considering the mercurial moods of the black masses, this labeling of Muslims as “talk only” could see us, powerful as we were, one day suddenly separated from the Negroes’ front-line struggle.
But beyond that single personal concern, I couldn’t have asked Allah to bless my efforts any more than he had. Islam in New York City was growing faster than anywhere in America. From the one tiny mosque to which Mr. Muhammad had originally sent me, I had now built three of the Nation’s most powerful and aggressive mosques-Harlem’s Seven-A in Manhattan, Corona’s Seven-B in Queens, and Mosque Seven-C in Brooklyn. And on a national basis, I had either directly established, or I had helped to establish, most of the one hundred or more mosques in the fifty states. I was crisscrossing North America sometimes as often as four times a week. Often, what sleep I got was caught in the jet planes. I was maintaining a marathon schedule of press, radio, television, and public-speaking commitments. The only way that I could keep up with my job for Mr. Muhammad was by flying with the wings that he had given me. * * *
As far back as 1961, when Mr. Muhammad’s illness took that turn for the worse, I had heard chance negative remarks concerning me. I had heard veiled implications. I had noticed other little evidences of the envy and of the jealousy which Mr. Muhammad had prophesied. For example, it was being said that “Minister Malcolm is trying to take over the Nation,” it was being said that I was “taking credit” for Mr. Muhammad’s teaching, it was being said that I was trying to “build an empire” for myself. It was being said that I loved playing “coast-to-coast Mr. Big Shot.”
When I heard these things, actually, they didn’t anger me. They helped me to re-steel my inner resolve that such lies would never become true of me. I would always remember that Mr. Muhammad had prophesied this envy and jealousy. This would help me to ignore it, because I knew that _he_ would understand if _he_ ever should hear such talk.
A frequent rumor among non-Muslims was “Malcolm X is making a pile of money.” All Muslims at least knew better than that. _Me_ making money? The F.B.I. and the C.I.A. and the
I.R.S. all combined can’t turn up a thing I got, beyond a car to drive and a seven-room house to live in. (And by now the Nation of Islam is jealously and greedily trying to take away even that house.) I had _access_ to money. Yes! Elijah Muhammad would authorize for me any amount that I asked for. But he knew, as every Muslim official knew, that every nickel and dime I ever got was used to promote the Nation of Islam.
My attitude toward money generated the only domestic quarrel that I have ever had with my beloved wife Betty. As our children increased in number, so didBetty’s hints to me that I should put away _something_ for our family. But I refused, and finally we had this argument. I put my foot down. I knew I had in Betty a wife who would sacrifice her life for me if such an occasion ever presented itself to her, but still I told her that too many organizations had been destroyed by leaders who tried to benefit personally, often goaded into it by their wives. We nearly broke up
over this argument. I finally convinced Betty that if anything ever happened to me, the Nation of Islam would take care of her for the rest of her life, and of our children until they were grown. I could never have been a bigger fool!
In every radio or television appearance, in every newspaper interview, I always made it crystal clear that I was Mr. Muhammad’s _representative_. Anyone who ever heard me make a public speech during this time knows that at least once a minute I said, “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches-” I would refuse to talk with any person who ever tried any so-called “joke” about my constant reference to Mr. Muhammad. Whenever anyone said, or wrote, “Malcolm X, the number two Black Muslim-” I would recoil. I have called up reporters and radio and television newscasters long-distance and asked them never to use that phrasing again, explaining to them: “_All_ Muslims are number two-after Mr. Muhammad.”
My briefcase was stocked with Mr. Muhammad’s photographs. I gave them to photographers who snapped my picture. I would telephone editors asking them, “Please use Mr. Muhammad’s picture instead of mine.” When, to my joy, Mr. Muhammad agreed to grant interviews to white writers, I rarely spoke to a white writer, or a black one either, whom I didn’t urge to visit Mr. Muhammad in person in Chicago-“Get the truth from the Messenger in person”-and a number of them did go there and meet and interview him.
Both white people and Negroes-even including Muslims-would make me uncomfortable, always giving me so much credit for the steady progress that theNation of Islam was making. “All praise is due to Allah,” I told everybody. “Anything creditable that I do is due to Mr. Elijah Muhammad.”
I believe that no man in the Nation of Islam could have gained the international prominence I gained with the wings Mr. Muhammad had put on me-plus having the freedom that he granted me to take liberties and do things on my own-and still have remained as faithful and as selfless a servant to him as I was.
I would say that it was in 1962 when I began to notice that less and less about me appeared in our Nation’s _Muhammad Speaks_. I learned that Mr. Muhammad’s son, Herbert, now the paper’s publisher, had instructed that as little as possible be printed about me. In fact, there was more in the Muslim paper about integrationist Negro “leaders” than there was about me. I could read more about myself in the European, Asian, and African press.
I am not griping about publicity for myself. I already had received more publicity than many world personages. But I resented the fact that the Muslims’ own newspaper denied them news of important things being done in their behalf, simply because it happened that I had done the things. I was conducting rallies, trying to propagate Mr. Muhammad’s teachings, and because of jealousy and narrow-mindedness finally I got no coverage at all-for by now an order had been given to completely black me out of the newspaper. For instance, I spoke to eight thousand students at the University of California, and the press there gave big coverage to what I said of the power and program of Mr. Muhammad. But when I got to Chicago, expecting at least a favorable response and some coverage, I met only a chilly reaction. The same thing happened when, in Harlem, I staged a rally that drew seven thousand people. At that time, Chicago headquarters was even discouraging me from staging large rallies. But the next week, I held another Harlem rally that was even bigger and more successfulthan the first one-and obviously this only increased the envy of the Chicago headquarters.
But I would put these things out of my mind, as they occurred.
At least, as much as I humanly could, I put them out of my mind. I am not trying to make myself seem right and noble. I am telling the truth. I _loved_ the Nation, and Mr. Muhammad. I _lived for_ the Nation, and for Mr. Muhammad.
It made other Muslim officials jealous because my picture was often in the daily press. They
wouldn’t remember that my picture was there because of my fervor in championing Mr. Muhammad. They wouldn’t simply reason that as vulnerable as the Nation of Islam was to distorted rumors and outright lies, we needed nothing so little as to have our public spokesman constantly denying the rumors. Common sense would have told any official that certainly Mr. Muhammad couldn’t be running all over the country as his own spokesman. And whoever he appointed as his spokesman couldn’t avoid a lot of press focus.
Whenever I caught any resentful feelings hanging on in my mind, I would be ashamed of myself, considering it a sign of weakness in myself. I knew that at least Mr. Muhammad knew that my life was totally dedicated to representing him.
But during 1963,I couldn’t help being very hypersensitive to my critics in high posts within our Nation. I quit selecting certain of my New York brothers and giving them money to go and lay groundwork for new mosques in other cities-because slighting remarks were being made about “Malcolm’s ministers.” In a time in America when it was of arch importance for a militant black voice to reach mass audiences, _Life_ magazine wanted to do a personal story of me, and I refused. I refused again when a cover story was offered by _Newsweek_. I refused again when I could have been a guest on the top-rated “Meet thePress” television program. Each refusal was a general loss for the black man, and, for the Nation of Islam, each refusal was a specific loss-and each refusal was made because of Chicago’s attitude. There was jealousy because I had been requested to make these featured appearances.
When a high-powered-rifle slug tore through the back of the N.A.A.C.P. Field Secretary Medgar Evers in Mississippi, I wanted to say the blunt truths that needed to be said. When a bomb was exploded in a Negro Christian church in Birmingham, Alabama, snuffing out the lives of those four beautiful little black girls, I made comments-but not what should have been said about the climate of hate that the American white man was generating and nourishing. The more hate was permitted to lash out when there were ways it could have been checked, the more bold the hate became-until at last it was flaring out at even the white man’s own kind, including his own leaders. In Dallas, Texas, for instance, the then Vice President and Mrs. Johnson were vulgarly insulted. And the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, was spat upon and hit on the head by a white woman picket.
Mr. Muhammad made me the Nation’s first National Minister. At a late 1963 rally in Philadelphia, Mr. Muhammad, embracing me, said to that audience before us, “This is my most faithful, hardworking minister. He will follow me until he dies.”
He had never paid such a compliment to any Muslim. No praise from any other earthly person could have meant more to me.
But this would be Mr. Muhammad’s and my last public appearance together.
Not long before, I had been on the Jerry Williams radio program in Boston, when someone handed me an item hot off the Associated Press machine. I read that a chapter of the Louisiana Citizens Council had just offered a $10,000 reward for my death.
But the threat of death was much closer to me than somewhere in Louisiana.
What I am telling you is the truth. When I discovered who else wanted me dead, I am telling you-it nearly sent me to Bellevue.
* * *
In my twelve years as a Muslim minister, I had always taught so strongly on the moral issues that many Muslims accused me of being “and-woman.” The very keel of my teaching, and my most
bone-deep personal belief, was that Elijah Muhammad in every aspect of his existence was a symbol of moral, mental, and spiritual reform among the American black people. For twelve years, I had taught that within the entire Nation of Islam; my own transformation was the best example I knew of Mr. Muhammad’s power to reform black men’s lives. From the time I entered prison until I married, about twelve years later, because of Mr. Muhammad’s influence upon me, I had never touched a woman.
But around 1963, if anyone had noticed, I spoke less and less of religion. I taught social doctrine to Muslims, and current events, and politics. I stayed wholly off the subject of morality.
And the reason for this was that my faith had been shaken in a way that I can never fully describe. For I had discovered Muslims had been betrayed by Elijah Muhammad himself.
I want to make this as brief as I can, only enough so that my position and my reactions will be understood. As to whether or not I should reveal this, there’sno longer any need for any question in my mind-for now the public knows. To make it concise, I will quote from one wire service story as it appeared in newspapers, and was reported over radio and television, across the United States:
“Los Angeles, July 3 (UPI)-Elijah Muhammad, 67-year-old leader of the Black Muslim movement, today faced paternity suits from two former secretaries who charged he fathered their four children. . . . Both women are in their twenties. . . .Miss Rosary and Miss Williams charged they had intimacies with Elijah Muhammad from 1957 until this year. Miss Rosary alleged he fathered her two children and said she was expecting a third child by him . . . the other plaintiff said he was the father of her daughter. . . .”
As far back as 1955, I had heard hints. But believe me when I tell you this: for me even to consider believing anything as insane-sounding as any slightest implication of any immoral behavior of Mr. Muhammad-why, the very idea made me shake with fear.
And so my mind simply refused to accept anything so grotesque as adultery mentioned in the same breath with Mr. Muhammad’s name.
_Adultery_! Why, any Muslim guilty of adultery was summarily ousted in disgrace. One of the Nation’s most closely kept scandals was that a succession of the personal secretaries of Mr. Muhammad had become pregnant. They were brought before Muslim courts and charged with adultery and they confessed. Humiliated before the general body, they received sentences of from one to five years of “isolation.” That meant they were to have no contact whatsoever with any other Muslims.
I don’t think I could say anything which better testifies to my depth of faith in Mr. Muhammad than that I totally and absolutely rejected my own intelligence. I simply refused to believe. I didn’t want Allah to “burn my brain” as I felt the brain of my brother Reginald had been burned for harboring evil thoughts about Mr. Elijah Muhammad. The last time I had seen Reginald, one day he walked into the Mosque Seven restaurant. I saw him coming in the door. I went and met him. I looked into my own brother’s eyes; I told him he wasn’t welcome among Muslims, and he turned around and left, and I haven’t seen him since. I did that to my own blood brother because, years before, Mr. Muhammad had sentenced Reginald to “isolation” from all other Muslims-and I considered that I was a Muslim before I was Reginald’s brother.
No one in the world could have convinced me that Mr. Muhammad would betray the reverence bestowed upon him by all of the mosques full of poor, trusting Muslims nickeling and diming up to faithfully support the Nation of Islam-when many of these faithful were scarcely able to pay their own rents.
But by late 1962, I learned reliably that numerous Muslims were leaving Mosque Two in Chicago.
The ugly rumor was spreading swiftly-even among non-Muslim Negroes. When I thought how the press constantly sought ways to discredit the Nation of Islam, I trembled to think of such a thing reaching the ears of some newspaper reporter, either black or white.
I actually began to have nightmares . . . I saw _headlines_.
I was burdened with a leaden fear as I kept speaking engagements all over America. Any time a reporter came anywhere near me, I could _hear_ him ask, “Is it true, Mr. Malcolm X, this report we hear, that . . .” And what was I going to say?
There was never any specific moment when I admitted the situation to myself. In the way that the human mind can do, somehow I slid over admitting tomyself the ugly fact, even as I began dealing with it.
Both in New York and Chicago, non-Muslims whom I knew began to tell me indirectly they had heard-or they would ask me if I had heard. I would act as if I had no idea whatever of what they were talking about-and I was grateful when they chose not to spell out what they knew. I went around knowing that I looked to them like a total fool. I felt like a total fool, out there every day preaching, and apparently not knowing what was going on right under my nose, in my own organization, involving the very man I was praising so. To look like a fool unearthed emotions I hadn’t felt since my Harlem hustler days. The worst thing in the hustler’s world was to be a dupe.
I will give you an example. Backstage at the Apollo Theater in Harlem one day, the comedian Dick Gregory looked at me. “Man,” he said, “Muhammad’s nothing but a . . .”-I can’t say the word he used. _Bam_! Just like that. My Muslim instincts said to attack Dick-but, instead, I felt weak and hollow. I think Dick sensed how upset I was and he let me get him off the subject. I knew Dick, a Chicagoan, was wise in the ways of the streets, and blunt-spoken. I wanted to plead with him not to say to anyone else what he had said to me-but I couldn’t; it would have been my own admission.
I can’t describe the torments I went through.
Always before, in any extremity, I had caught the first plane to Mr. Elijah Muhammad. He had virtually raised me from the dead. Everything I was that was creditable, he had made me. I felt that no matter what, I could not let him down.
There was no one I could turn to with this problem, except Mr. Muhammad himself. Ultimately that had to be the case. But first I went to Chicago to see Mr. Muhammad’s second youngest son, Wallace Muhammad. I felt that Wallacewas Mr. Muhammad’s most strongly spiritual son, the son with the most objective outlook. Always, Wallace and I had shared an exceptional closeness and trust.
And Wallace knew, when he saw me, why I had come to see him. “I know,” he said. I said I thought we should rally to help his father. Wallace said he didn’t feel that his father would welcome any efforts to help him. I told myself that Wallace must be crazy.
Next, I broke the rule that no Muslim is supposed to have any contact with another Muslim in the “isolated” state. I looked up, and I talked with three of the former secretaries to Mr. Muhammad. From their own mouths, I heard their stories of who had fathered their children. And from their own mouths I heard that Elijah Muhammad had told them I was the best, the greatest minister he ever had, but that someday I would leave him, turn against him-so I was “dangerous.” I learned from these former secretaries of Mr. Muhammad that while he was praising me to my face, he was tearing me apart behind my back.
That deeply hurt me.
Every day, I was meeting the microphones, cameras, press reporters, and other commitments, including the Muslims of my own Mosque Seven. I felt almost out of my mind.
Finally, the thing crystallized for me. As long as I did nothing, I felt it was the same as being disloyal. I felt that as long as I sat down, I was not helping Mr. Muhammad-when somebody needed to be standing up.
So one night I wrote to Mr. Muhammad about the poison being spread about him. He telephoned me in New York. He said that when he saw me he would discuss it.
I desperately wanted to find some way-some kind of a bridge-over which I was certain the Nation of Islam could be saved from self-destruction. I had faith in the Nation: we weren’t some group of Christian Negroes, jumping and shouting and full of sins.
I thought of one bridge that could be used if and when the shattering disclosure should become public. Loyal Muslims could be taught that a man’s accomplishments in his life outweigh his personal, human weaknesses. Wallace Muhammad helped me to review the Quran and the Bible for documentation. David’s adultery with Bathsheba weighed less on history’s scales, for instance, than the positive fact of David’s killing Goliath. Thinking of Lot, we think not of incest, but of his saving the people from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Or, our image of Noah isn’t of his getting drunk-but of his building the ark and teaching people to save themselves from the flood. We think of Moses leading the Hebrews from bondage, not of Moses’ adultery with the Ethiopian women. In all of the cases I reviewed, the positive outweighed the negative.
I began teaching in New York Mosque Seven that a man’s accomplishments in his life outweighed his personal, human weaknesses. I taught that a person’s good deeds outweigh his bad deeds. I never mentioned the previously familiar subjects of adultery and fornication, and I never mentioned immoral evils.
By some miracle, the adultery talk which was so widespread in Chicago seemed to only leak a little in Boston, Detroit, and New York. Apparently, it hadn’t reached other mosques around the country at all. In Chicago, increasing numbers of Muslims were leaving Mosque Two, I heard, and many non-Muslims who had been sympathetic to the Nation were now outspokenly anti-Muslim. In February 1963,I officiated at the University of Islam graduation exercises;when I introduced various members of the Muhammad family, I could feel the cold chill toward them from the Muslims in the audience.
Elijah Muhammad had me fly to Phoenix to see him in April, 1963.
We embraced, as always-and almost immediately he took me outside, where we began to walk by his swimming pool.
He was The Messenger of Allah. When I was a foul, vicious convict, so evil that other convicts had called me Satan, this man had rescued me. He was the man who had trained me, who had treated me as if I were his own flesh and blood. He was the man who had given me wings-to go places, to do things I otherwise never would have dreamed of. We walked, with me caught up in a whirlwind of emotions.
“Well, son,” Mr. Muhammad said, “what is on your mind?”
Plainly, frankly, pulling no punches, I told Mr. Muhammad what was being said. And without waiting for any response from him, I said that with his son Wallace’s help I had found in the Quran and the Bible that which might be taught to Muslims-if it became necessary-as the fulfillment of prophecy.
“Son, I’m not surprised,” Elijah Muhammad said. “You always have had such a good
understanding of prophecy, and of spiritual things. You recognize that’s what all of this isprophecy. You have the kind of understanding that only an old man has.
“I’m David,” he said. “When you read about how David took another man’s wife, I’m that David. You read about Noah, who got drunk-that’s me. You read about Lot, who went and laid up with his own daughters. I have to fulfill all of those things.” * * *
I remembered that when an epidemic is about to hit somewhere, that community’s people are inoculated against exposure with some of the same germs that are anticipated-and this prepares them to resist the oncoming virus.
I decided I had better prepare six other East Coast Muslim officials whom I selected.
I told them. And then I told them why I had told them-that I felt they should not be caught by surprise and shock if it became their job to teach the Muslims in their mosques the “fulfillment of prophecy.” I found then that some had already heard it; one of them, Minister Louis X of Boston, as much as seven months before. They had been living with the dilemma themselves.
I never dreamed that the Chicago Muslim officials were going to make it appear that I was throwing gasoline on the fire instead of water. I never dreamed that they were going to try to make it appear that instead of inoculating against an epidemic, I had started it.
The stage in Chicago even then was being set for Muslims to shift their focus off the epidemicand onto me.
Hating me was going to become the cause for people of shattered faith to rally around.
Non-Muslim Negroes who knew me well, and even some of the white reporters with whom I had some regular contact, were telling me, almost wherever I went, “Malcolm X, you’re looking tired. You need a rest.” They didn’t know a fraction of it. Since I had been a Muslim, this was the first time any white people really got to me in a personal way. I could tell that some of them were really honest and sincere. One of these, whose name I won’t call-he might lose his job-said, “Malcolm X, the whites need your voice worse than the Negroes.” I remember so well his saying this because it prefaced the first time since I became a Muslim that I had ever talked with any white man at any length about anything except the Nation of Islam and the American black man’s struggle today.
I can’t remember how, or why, he somehow happened to mention the Dead Sea Scrolls. I came back with something like, “Yes, those scrolls are going to take Jesus off the stained-glass windows and the frescoes where he has been lily-white, and put Him back into the true mainstream of history where Jesus actually was non-white.” The reporter was surprised, and I went on that the Dead Sea Scrolls were going to reaffirm that Jesus was a member of that brotherhood of Egyptian seers called the Essene-a fact already known from Philo, the famous Egyptian historian of Jesus’ time. And the reporter and I got off on about two good hours of talking in the areas of archaeology, history, and religion. It was so pleasant. I almost forgot the heavy worries on my mind-for that brief respite. I remember we wound up agreeing that by the year 2000, every schoolchild will be taught the true color of great men of antiquity.
* * *
I’ve said that I expected headlines momentarily. I hadn’t expected the kind which came.
No one needs to be reminded of who got assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.
Within hours after the assassination-I am telling nothing but the truth-everyMuslim minister
received from Mr. Elijah Muhammad a directive-in fact, _two_ directives. Every minister was ordered to make no remarks at all concerning the assassination. Mr. Muhammad instructed that if pressed for comment, we should say: “No comment.”
During that three-day period where there was no other news to be heard except relating to the murdered President, Mr. Muhammad had a previously scheduled speaking engagement in New York at the Manhattan Center. He cancelled his coming to speak, and as we were unable to get back the money already paid for the rental of the center, Mr. Muhammad told me to speak in his stead. And so I spoke.
Many times since then, I’ve looked at the speech notes I used that day, which had been prepared at least a week before the assassination. The tide of my speech was “God’s Judgment of White America.” It was on the theme, familiar to me, of “as you sow, so shall you reap,” or how the hypocritical American white man was reaping what he had sowed.
The question-and-answer period opened, I suppose inevitably, with someone asking me, “What do you think about President Kennedy’s assassination? What is your opinion?”
Without a second thought, I said what I honestly felt-that it was, as I saw it, a case of “the chickens coming home to roost.” I said that the hate in white men had not stopped with the killing of defenseless black people, but that hate, allowed to spread unchecked, finally had struck down this country’s Chief of State. I said it was the same thing as had happened with Medgar Evers, with Patrice Lumumba, with Madame Nhu’s husband.
The headlines and the news broadcasts promptly had it: “_Black Muslims’ Malcolm X: ‘Chickens Come Home to Roost._'”
It makes me feel weary to think of it all now. All over America, all over the world, some of the world’s most important personages were saying in various ways, and in far stronger ways than I did, that America’s climate of hate had been responsible for the President’s death. But when Malcolm X said the same thing, it was ominous.
My regular monthly visit to Mr. Muhammad was due the next day. Somehow, on the plane, I expected something. I’ve always had this strong intuition.
Mr. Muhammad and I embraced each other in greeting. I sensed some ingredient missing from his usual amiability. And I was suddenly tense-to me also very significant. For years, I had prided myself that Mr. Muhammad and I were so close that I knew how he felt by how I felt. If he was nervous, I was nervous. If I was relaxed, then I knew he was relaxed. Now, I felt the tension. . . .
First we talked of other things, sitting in his living room. Then he asked me, “Did you see the papers this morning?”
I said, “Yes, sir, I did.”
“That was a very bad statement,” he said. “The country loved this man. The whole country is in mourning. That was very ill-timed. A statement like that can make it hard on Muslims in general.”
And then, as if Mr. Muhammad’s voice came from afar, I heard his words: “I’ll have to silence you for the next ninety days-so that the Muslims everywhere can be disassociated from the blunder.”
I was numb. But I was a follower of Mr. Muhammad. Many times I had said to my own assistants that anyone in a position to discipline others must be able to take disciplining himself.
I told Mr. Muhammad, “Sir, I agree with you, and I submit, one hundred per cent.”
I flew back to New York psychologically preparing myself to tell my Mosque Seven assistants that I had been suspended-or “silenced.”
But to my astonishment, upon arrival I learned that my assistants already had been informed.
What astonished me even more-a telegram had been sent to every New York City newspaper and radio and television station. It was the most quick and thorough publicity job that I had ever seen the Chicago officials initiate.
Every telephone where I could possibly be reached was ringing. London. Paris. A.P., U.P.I. Every television and radio network, and all of the newspapers were calling. I told them all, “I disobeyed Mr. Muhammad. I submit completely to his wisdom. Yes, I expect to be speaking again after ninety days.”
“_Malcolm X Silenced_!” It was headlines.
My first worry was that if a scandal broke for the Nation of Islam within the next ninety days, I would be gagged when I could be the most experienced Muslim in dealing with the news media that would make the most of any scandal within the Nation.
I learned next that my “silencing” was even more thorough than I had thought.I was not only forbidden to talk with the press, I was not even to teach in my own Mosque Seven.
Next, an announcement was made throughout the Nation of Islam that I would be reinstated within ninety days, “_if he submits_.”
This made me suspicious-for the first time. I had completely submitted. But, deliberately, Muslims were being given the impression that I had rebelled.
I hadn’t hustled in the streets for years for nothing. I knew when I was being set up.
Three days later, the first word came to me that a Mosque Seven official who had been one of my most immediate assistants was telling certain Mosque Seven brothers: “If you knew what the Minister did, you’d go out and kill him yourself.”
And then I knew. As any official in the Nation of Islam would instantly have known, any death-talk for me could have been approved of-if not actually initiated-by only one man.
* * *
My head felt like it was bleeding inside. I felt like my brain was damaged. I went to see Dr. Leona A. Turner, who has been my family doctor for years, who practices in East Elmhurst, Long Island. I asked her to give me a brain examination.
She did examine me. She said I was under great strain-and I needed rest.
Cassius Clay and I are not together today. But always I must be grateful to himthat at just this time, when he was in Miami training to fight Sonny Liston, Cassius invited me, Betty, and the children to come there as his guests-as a sixth wedding anniversary present to Betty and me.
I had met Cassius Clay in Detroit in 1962. He and his brother Rudolph came into the Student’s Luncheonette next door to the Detroit Mosque where Elijah Muhammad was about to speak at a big rally. Every Muslim present was impressed by the bearing and the obvious genuineness of the striking, handsome pair of prizefighter brothers. Cassius came up and pumped my hand,
introducing himself as he later presented himself to the world, “I’m Cassius Clay.” He acted as if I was supposed to know who he was. So I acted as though I did. Up to that moment, though, I had never even heard of him. Ours were two entirely different worlds. In fact, Elijah Muhammad instructed us Muslims against all forms of sports.
As Elijah Muhammad spoke, the two Clay brothers practically led the applause, further impressing everyone with their sincerity-since a Muslim rally was about the world’s last place to seek fight fans.
Thereafter, now and then I heard how Cassius showed up in Muslim mosques and restaurants in various cities. And if I happened to be speaking anywhere within reasonable distance of wherever Cassius was, he would be present. I liked him. Some contagious quality about him made him one of the very few people I ever invited to my home. Betty liked him. Our children were crazy about him. Cassius was simply a likeable, friendly, clean-cut, down-to-earth youngster. I noticed how alert he was even in little details. I suspected that there was a plan in his public clowning. I suspected, and he confirmed to me, that he was doing everything possible to con and “psyche” Sonny Liston into coming into the ring angry, poorly trained, and overconfident, expecting another of his vaunted one-round knockouts. Not only was Cassius receptive to advice, he solicited it. Primarily, I impressed upon him to what a great extent apublic figure’s success depends upon how alert and knowledgeable he is to the true natures and to the true motives of all of the people who flock around him. I warned him about the “foxes,” his expression for the aggressive, cute young females who flocked after him; I told Cassius that instead of “foxes,” they really were wolves.
This was Betty’s first vacation since we had married. And our three girls romped and played with the heavyweight contender.
I don’t know what I might have done if I had stayed in New York during that crucial time-besieged by insistently ringing telephones, and by the press, and by all of the other people so anxious to gloat, to speculate and to “commiserate.”
I was in a state of emotional shock. I was like someone who for twelve years had had an inseparable, beautiful marriage-and then suddenly one morning at breakfast the marriage partner had thrust across the table some divorce papers.
I felt as though something in _nature_ had failed, like the sun, or the stars. It was that incredible a phenomenon to me-something too stupendous to conceive. I am not sparing myself. Around Cassius Clay’s fight camp, around the Hampton House Motel where my family was staying, I talked with my own wife, and with other people, and actually I was only mouthing words that really meant nothing to me. Whatever I was saying at any time was being handled by a small corner of my mind. The rest of my mind was filled with a parade of a thousand and one different scenes from the past twelve years . . . scenes in the Muslim mosques . . . scenes with Mr. Muhammad . . . scenes with Mr. Muhammad’s family . . . scenes with Muslims, individually, as my audiences, and at our social gatherings . . . and scenes with the white man in audiences, and the press.
I walked, I talked, I functioned. At the Cassius Clay fight camp, I told the various sportswriters repeatedly what I gradually had come to know within myself was a lie-that I would be reinstated within ninety days. But I could not yet let myself psychologically face what I knew: that already the Nation of Islam and I were physically divorced. Do you understand what I mean? A judge’s signature on a piece of paper can grant to a couple a physical divorce-but for either of them, or maybe for both of them, if they have been a very close marriage team, to actually become _psychologically_ divorced from each other might take years.
But in the physical divorce, I could not evade the obvious strategy and plotting coming out of Chicago to eliminate me from the Nation of Islam . . . if not from this world. And I felt that I perceived the anatomy of the plotting.
Any Muslim would have known that my “chickens coming home to roost” statement had been only an excuse to put into action the plan for getting me out. And step one had been already taken: the Muslims were given the impression that I had rebelled against Mr. Muhammad. I could now anticipate step two: I would remain “suspended” (and later I would be “isolated”) indefinitely. Step three would be either to provoke some Muslim ignorant of the truth to take it upon himself to kill me as a “religious duty”-or to “isolate” me so that I would gradually disappear from the public scene.
The only person who knew was my wife. I never would have dreamed that I would ever depend so much upon any woman for strength as I now leaned upon Betty. There was no exchange between us; Betty said nothing, being the caliber of wife that she is, with the depth of understanding that she has-but I could feel the envelopment of her comfort. I knew that she was as faithful a servant of Allah as I was, and I knew that whatever happened, she was with me.
The death talk was not my fear. Every second of my twelve years with Mr. Muhammad, I had been ready to lay down my life for him. The thing to meworse than death was the betrayal. I could conceive death. I couldn’t conceive betrayal-not of the loyalty which I had given to the Nation of Islam, and to Mr. Muhammad. During the previous twelve years, if Mr. Muhammad had committed any civil crime punishable by death, I would have said and tried to prove that I did it-to save himand I would have gone to the electric chair, as Mr. Muhammad’s servant.
There as Cassius Clay’s guest in Miami, I tried desperately to push my mind off my troubles and onto the Nation’s troubles. I still struggled to persuade myself that Mr. Muhammad had been fulfilling prophecy. Because I actually had believed that if Mr. Muhammad was not God, then he surely stood next to God.
What began to break my faith was that, try as I might, I couldn’t hide, I couldn’t evade, that Mr. Muhammad, instead of facing what he had done before his followers, as a human weakness or as fulfillment of prophecy-which I sincerely believe that Muslims would have understood, or at least they would have accepted-Mr. Muhammad had, instead, been willing to hide, to cover up what he had done.
That was my major blow.
That was how I first began to realize that I had believed in Mr. Muhammad more than he believed in himself.
And that was how, after twelve years of never thinking for as much as five minutes about myself, I became able finally to muster the nerve, and the strength, to start facing the facts, to think for myself.
Briefly I left Florida to return Betty and the children to our Long Island home. I learned that the Chicago Muslim officials were further displeased with mebecause of the newspaper reports of me in the Cassius Clay camp. They felt that Cassius hadn’t a prayer of a chance to win. They felt the Nation would be embarrassed through my linking the Muslim image with him. (I don’t know if the champion today cares to remember that most newspapers in America were represented at the pre-fight camp-except _Muhammad Speaks_. Even though Cassius was a Muslim brother, the Muslim newspaper didn’t consider his fight worth covering.)
I flew back to Miami feeling that it was Allah’s intent for me to help Cassius prove Islam’s superiority before the world-through proving that mind can win over brawn. I don’t have to remind you of how people everywhere scoffed at Cassius Clay’s chances of beating Listen.
This time, I brought from New York with me some photographs of Floyd Patterson and Sonny Listen in their fight camps, with white priests as their “spiritual advisors.” Cassius Clay, being a
Muslim, didn’t need to be told how white Christianity had dealt with the American black man. ‘ “This fight is the truth,” I told Cassius. “It’s the Cross and the Crescent fighting in a prize ring-for the first time. It’s a modern Crusades-a Christian and a Muslim facing each other with television to beam it off Telstar for the whole world to see what happens!” I told Cassius, “Do you think Allah has brought about all this intending for you to leave the ring as anything but the champion?” (You may remember that at the weighing-in, Cassius was yelling such things as “It is prophesied for me to be successful! I cannot be beaten!”)
Sonny Liston’s handlers and advisors had him fighting harder to “integrate” than he was training to meet Cassius. Liston finally had managed to rent a big, fine house over in a rich, wall-to-wall white section. To give you an idea, the owner of the neighboring house was the New York Yankees baseball club owner, Dan Topping. In the early evenings, when Cassius and I would sometimes walk where the black people lived, those Negroes’ mouths would hangopen in surprise that he was among them instead of whites as most black champions preferred. Again and again, Cassius startled those Negroes, telling them, “You’re my own kind. I get my strength from being around my own black people.”
What Sonny Listen was about to meet, in fact, was one of the most awesome frights that ever can confront any person-one who worships Allah, and who is completely without fear.
Among over eight thousand other seat holders in Miami’s big Convention Hall, I received Seat Number Seven. Seven has always been my favorite number. It has followed me throughout my life. I took this to be Allah’s message confirming to me that Cassius Clay was going to win. Along with Cassius, I really was more worried about how his brother Rudolph was going to do, fighting his first pro fight in the preliminaries.
While Rudolph was winning a four-round decision over a Florida Negro named “Chip” Johnson, Cassius stood at the rear of the auditorium watching calmly, dressed in a black tuxedo. After all of his months of antics, after the weighing-in act that Cassius had put on, this calmness should have tipped off some of the sportswriters who were predicting Clay’s slaughter.
Then Cassius disappeared, dressing to meet Listen. As we had agreed, I joined him in a silent prayer for Allah’s blessings. Finally, he and Listen were in their corners in the ring. I folded my arms and tried to appear the coolest man in the place, because a television camera can show you looking like a fool yelling at a prizefight.
Except for whatever chemical it was that got into Cassius’ eyes and blinded him temporarily in the fourth and fifth rounds, the fight went according to his plan. He evaded Liston’s powerful punches. The third round automatically beganthe tiring of the aging Listen, who was overconfidently trained to go only two rounds. Then, desperate, Listen lost. The secret of one of fight history’s greatest upsets was that months before that night, Clay had out-thought Listen.
There probably never has been as quiet a new-champion party. The boyish king of the ring came over to my motel. He ate ice cream, drank milk, talked with football star Jimmy Brown and other friends, and some reporters. Sleepy, Cassius took a quick nap on my bed, then he went back home.
We had breakfast together the next morning, just before the press conference when Cassius calmly made the announcement which burst into international headlines that he was a “Black Muslim.”
But let me tell you something about that. Cassius never announced himself a member of any “Black Muslims.” The press reporters made that out of what he told them, which was this: “I believe in the religion of Islam, which means I believe there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His Apostle. This is the same religion that is believed in by over seven hundred million darkskinned peoples throughout Africa and Asia.”
Nothing in all of the furor which followed was more ridiculous than Floyd Patterson announcing that as a Catholic, he wanted to fight Cassius Clay-to save the heavyweight crown from being held by a Muslim. It was such a sad case of a brainwashed black Christian ready to do battle for the white man-who wants no part of him. Not three weeks later, the newspapers reported that in Yonkers, New York, Patterson was offering to sell his $140,000 house for a $20,000 loss. He had “integrated” into a neighborhood of whites who had made his life miserable. None were friendly. Their children called his children “niggers.” One neighbor trained his dog to deface Patterson’s property. Another erected a fence to hide the Negroes from sight. “I tried, it just didn’t work,” Patterson told the press. * * *
The first direct order for my death was issued through a Mosque Seven official who previously had been a close assistant. Another previously close assistant of mine was assigned to do the job. He was a brother with a knowledge of demolition; he was asked to wire my car to explode when I turned the ignition key. But this brother, it happened, had seen too much of my total loyalty to the Nation to carry out his order. Instead, he came to me. I thanked him for my life. I told him what was really going on in Chicago. He was stunned almost beyond belief.
This brother was close to others in the Mosque Seven circle who might subsequently be called upon to eliminate me. He said he would take it upon himself to enlighten each of them enough so that they wouldn’t allow themselves to be used.
This first direct death-order was how, finally, I began to arrive at my psychological divorce from the Nation of Islam.
I began to see, wherever I went-on the streets, in business places, on elevators, sidewalks, in passing cars-the faces of Muslims whom I knew, and I knew that any of them might be waiting the opportunity to try and put a bullet into me.
I was racking my brain. What was I going to do? My life was inseparably committed to the American black man’s struggle. I was generally regarded as a “leader.” For years, I had attacked so many so-called “black leaders” for their shortcomings. Now, I had to honestly ask myself what I could offer, how I was genuinely qualified to help the black people win their struggle for human rights. I had enough experience to know that in order to be a good organizer ofanything which you expect to succeed-including yourself-you must almost mathematically analyze cold facts.
I had, as one asset, I knew, an international image. No amount of money could have bought that. I knew that if I said something newsworthy, people would read or hear of it, maybe even around the world, depending upon what it was. More immediately, in New York City, where I would naturally base any operation, I had a large, direct personal following of non-Muslims. This had been building up steadily ever since I had led Muslims in the dramatic protest to the police when our brother Hinton was beaten up. Hundreds of Harlem Negroes had seen, and hundreds of thousands of them had later heard how we had shown that almost anything could be accomplished by black men who would face the white man without fear. All of Harlem had seen how from then on, the police gave Muslims respect. (This was during the time that the Deputy Chief Inspector at the 28th Precinct had said of me, “No one man should have that much power.”)
Over the ensuing years, I’d had various kinds of evidence that a high percentage of New York City’s black people responded to what I said, including a great many who would not publicly say so. For instance, time and again when I spoke at street rallies, I would draw ten and twelve times as many people as most other so-called “Negro leaders.” I knew that in any society, a true leader is one who earns and deserves the following he enjoys. True followers are bestowed by themselves, out of their own volition and emotions. I knew that the great lack of most of the bignamed “Negro leaders” was their lack of any true rapport with the ghetto Negroes. How could they have rapport when they spent most of their time “integrating” with white people? I knew that
the ghetto people knew that I never left the ghetto in spirit, and I never left it physically any more than I had to. I had a ghetto instinct; for instance, I could feel if tension was beyond normal in a ghetto audience. And I could speak and understand the ghetto’s language. There was an example of this that alwaysflew to my mind every time I heard some of the “big name” Negro “leaders” declaring they “spoke for” the ghetto black people.
After a Harlem street rally, one of these downtown “leaders” and I were talking when we were approached by a Harlem hustler. To my knowledge I’d never seen this hustler before; he said to me, approximately: “Hey, baby! I dig you holding this all-originals scene at the track . . . I’m going to lay a vine under the Jew’s balls for a dime-got to give you a play . . . Got the shorts out here trying to scuffle up on some bread . . . Well, my man, I’ll get on, got to go peck a little, and cop me some z’s-” And the hustler went on up Seventh Avenue.
I would never have given it another thought, except that this downtown “leader” was standing, staring after that hustler, looking as if he’d just heard Sanskrit. He asked me what had been said, and I told him. The hustler had said he was aware that the Muslims were holding an all-black bazaar at Rockland Palace, which is primarily a dancehall. The hustler intended to pawn a suit for ten dollars to attend and patronize the bazaar. He had very little money but he was trying hard to make some. He was going to eat, then he would get some sleep.
The point I am making is that, as a “leader,” I could talk over the ABC, CBS, or NBC microphones, at Harvard or at Tuskegee; I could talk with the so-called “middle class” Negro and with the ghetto blacks (whom all the other leaders just talked _about_). And because I had been a hustler, I knew better than all whites knew, and better than nearly all of the black “leaders” knew, that actually the most dangerous black man in America was the ghetto hustler.
Why do I say this? The hustler, out there in the ghetto jungles, has less respect for the white power structure than any other Negro in North America. The ghetto hustler is internally restrained by nothing. He has no religion, no concept of morality, no civic responsibility, no fear-nothing. To survive, he is outthere constantly preying upon others, probing for any human weakness like a ferret. The ghetto hustler is forever frustrated, restless, and anxious for some “action.” Whatever he undertakes, he commits himself to it fully, absolutely.
What makes the ghetto hustler yet more dangerous is his “glamor” image to the school-dropout youth in the ghetto. These ghetto teen-agers see the hell caught by their parents struggling to get somewhere, or see that they have given up struggling in the prejudiced, intolerant white man’s world. The ghetto teenagers make up their own minds they would rather be like the hustlers whom they see dressed “sharp” and flashing money and displaying no respect for anybody or anything. So the ghetto youth become attracted to the hustler worlds of dope, thievery, prostitution, and general crime and immorality.
It scared me the first time I really saw the danger of these ghetto teen-agers if they are ever sparked to violence. One sweltering summer afternoon, I attended a Harlem street rally which contained a lot of these teen-agers in the crowd. I had been invited by some “responsible” Negro leaders who normally never spoke to me; I knew they had just used my name to help them draw a crowd. The more I thought about it on the way there, the hotter I got. And when I got on the stand, I just told that crowd in the street that I wasn’t really wanted up there, that my name had been used-and I walked off the speaker’s stand.
Well, what did I want to do that for? Why, those young, teenage Negroes got upset, and started milling around and yelling, upsetting the older Negroes in the crowd. The first thing you know traffic was blocked in four directions by a crowd whose mood quickly grew so ugly that I really got apprehensive. I got up on top of a car and began waving my arms and yelling at them to quiet down. They did quiet, and then I asked them to disperse-and they did.
This was when it began being said that I was America’s only Negro who “couldstop a race riot-or
start one.” I don’t know if I could do either one. But I know one thing: it had taught me in a very few minutes to have a whole lot of respect for the human combustion that is packed among the hustlers and their young admirers who live in the ghettoes where the Northern white man has sealed-off the Negro-away from whites-for a hundred years.
The “long hot summer” of 1964 in Harlem, in Rochester, and in other cities, has given an idea of what could happen-and that’s all, only an idea. For all of those riots were kept contained within where the Negroes 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! In New York City, you let enraged blacks pour out of Harlem across Central Park and fan down the tunnels of Madison and Fifth and Lexington and Park Avenues. Or, take Chicago’s South Side, an older, even worse slum-you let those Negroes swarm downtown. You let Washington, D.C.’s festering blacks head down Pennsylvania Avenue. Detroit has already seen a peaceful massing of more than a _hundred thousand_ blacks-think about that. You name the city. Black social dynamite is in Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles . . . the black man’s anger is there, fermenting.
* * *
I’ve strayed off onto some of the incidents and situations which have taught me to respect the danger in the ghettoes. I had been trying to explain how I honestly evaluated my own qualifications to be worthy of presenting myself as an independent “leader” among black men.
In the end, I reasoned that the decision already had been made for me. The ghetto masses already had entrusted me with an image of leadership among them. I knew the ghetto instinctively extends that trust only to one who had demonstrated that he would never sell them out to the white man. I not onlyhad no such intention-to sell out was not even in my nature.
I felt a challenge to plan, and build, an organization that could help to cure the black man in North America of the sickness which has kept him under the white man’s heel.
The black man in North America was mentally sick in his cooperative, sheeplike acceptance of the white man’s culture.
The black man in North America was spiritually sick because for centuries he had accepted the white man’s Christianity-which asked the black so-called Christian to expect no true Brotherhood of Man, but to endure the cruelties of the white so-called Christians. Christianity had made black men fuzzy, nebulous, confused in their thinking. It had taught the black man to think if he had no shoes, and was hungry, “we gonna get shoes and milk and honey and fish fries in Heaven.”
The black man in North America was economically sick and that was evident in one simple fact: as a consumer, he got less than his share, and as a producer gave _least_. The black American today shows us the perfect parasite image-the black tick under the delusion that he is progressing because he rides on the udder of the fat, three-stomached cow that is white America. For instance, annually, the black man spends over $3 billion for automobiles, but America contains hardly any franchised black automobile dealers. For instance, forty per cent of the expensive imported Scotch whisky consumed in America goes down the throats of the status-sick black man; but the only black-owned distilleries are in bathtubs, or in the woods somewhere. Or for instance-a scandalous shame-in New York City, with over a million Negroes, there aren’t twenty black-owned businesses employing over ten people. It’s because black men don’t own and control their own community’s retail establishments that they can’t stabilize their own community. The black man in North America was sickest of all politically. He let the white man divide him into such foolishness as considering himself a black “Democrat,” a black “Republican,” a black “Conservative,” or a black “Liberal” . . . when a ten-million black vote bloc could be the deciding balance of power in American politics, because the white man’s vote is almost always evenly divided. The polls are one place where every black man could fight the black man’s cause with
dignity, and with the power and the tools that the white man understands, and respects, and fears, and cooperates with. Listen, let me tell you something! If a black bloc committee told Washington’s worst “nigger-hater,” “We represent ten million votes,” why, that “nigger-hater” would leap up: “Well, how _are_ you? Come on _in_ here!” Why, if the Mississippi black man voted in a bloc, Eastland would pretend to be more liberal than Jacob Javits-or Eastland would not survive in his office. Why else is it that racist politicians fight to keep black men from the polls?
Whenever any group can vote in a bloc, and decide the outcome of elections, and it _fails_ to do this, then that group is politically sick. Immigrants once made Tammany Hall the most powerful single force in American politics. In 1880, New York City’s first Irish Catholic Mayor was elected and by 1960 America had its first Irish Catholic President. America’s black man, voting as a bloc, could wield an even more powerful force.
U.S. politics is ruled by special-interest blocs and lobbies. What group has a more urgent special interest, what group needs a bloc, a lobby, more than the black man? Labor owns one of Washington’s largest non-government buildings-situated where they can literally watch the White House-and no political move is made that doesn’t involve how Labor feels about it. A lobby got Big Oil its depletion allowance. The farmer, through his lobby, is the most government-subsidized special-interest group in America today, because a millionfarmers vote, not as Democrats, or Republicans, liberals, conservatives, but as farmers.
Doctors have the best lobby in Washington. Their special-interest influence successfully fights the Medicare program that’s wanted, and needed, by millions of other people. Why, there’s a Beet Growers’ Lobby! A Wheat Lobby! A Cattle Lobby! A China Lobby! Little countries no one ever heard of have their Washington lobbies, representing their special interests.
The government has departments to deal with the special-interest groups that make themselves heard and felt. A Department of Agriculture cares for the fanners’ needs. There is a Department of Health, Education and Welfare. There is a Department of the Interior-in which the Indians are included. Is the farmer, the doctor, the Indian, the greatest problem in America today? No-it is the black man! There ought to be a Pentagon-sized Washington department dealing with every segment of the black man’s problems.
Twenty-two million black men! They have given America four hundred years of toil; they have bled and died in every battle since the Revolution; they were in America before the Pilgrims, and long before the mass immigrations-and they are still today at the bottom of everything!
Why, twenty-two million black people should tomorrow give a dollar apiece to build a skyscraper lobby building in Washington, D.C. Every morning, every legislator should receive a communication about what the black man in America expects and wants and needs. The demanding voice of the black lobby should be in the ears of every legislator who votes on any issue.
The cornerstones of this country’s operation are economic and political strength and power. The black man doesn’t have the economic strength-and it will take time for him to build it. But right now the American black man has the political strength and power to change his destiny overnight.
* * *
It was a big order-the organization I was creating in my mind, one which would help to challenge the American black man to gain his human rights, and to cure his mental, spiritual, economic, and political sicknesses. But if you ever intend to do anything worthwhile, you have to start with a worthwhile plan.
Substantially, as I saw it, the organization I hoped to build would differ from the Nation of Islam in that it would embrace all faiths of black men, and it would carry into practice what the Nation of Islam had only preached.
Rumors were swirling, particularly in East Coast cities-what was I going to do? Well, the first thing I was going to have to do was to attract far more willing heads and hands than my own. Each day, more militant, action brothers who had been with me in Mosque Seven announced their break from the Nation of Islam to come with me. And each day, I learned, in one or another way, of more support from non-Muslim Negroes, including a surprising lot of the “middle” and “upper class” black bourgeoisie, who were sick of the status-symbol charade. There was a growing clamor: “When are you going to call a meeting, to get organized?”
To hold a first meeting, I arranged to rent the Carver Ballroom of the Hotel Theresa, which is at the corner of 125th Street and Seventh Avenue, which might be called one of Harlem’s fuse-box locations.
The _Amsterdam News_ reported the planned meeting and many readers inferred that we were establishing our beginning mosque in the Theresa. Telegrams and letters and telephone calls came to the hotel for me, from across the country. Their general tone was that this was a move that people had waitedfor. People I’d never heard of expressed confidence in me in moving ways.
Numerous people said that the Nation of Islam’s stringent moral restrictions had repelled themand they wanted to join me.
A doctor who owned a small hospital telephoned long-distance to join. Many others sent contributions-even before our policies had been publicly stated. Muslims wrote from other cities that they would join me, their remarks being generally along the lines that “Islam is too inactive” . . .”The Nation is moving too slow.”
Astonishing numbers of white people called, and wrote, offering contributions, or asking could _they_ join? The answer was, no, they couldn’t join; our membership was all black-but if their consciences dictated, they could financially help our constructive approach to America’s race problems.
Speaking-engagement requests came in-twenty-two of them in one particular Monday morning’s mail. It was startling to me that an unusual number of the requests came from groups of white Christian ministers.
I called a press conference. The microphones stuck up before me. The flashbulbs popped. The reporters, men and women, white and black, representing media that reached around the world, sat looking at me with their pencils and open notebooks.
I made the announcement: “I am going to organize and head a new mosque in New York City known as the Muslim Mosque, Inc. This will give us a religious base, and the spiritual force necessary to rid our people of the vices that destroy the moral fiber of our community.
“Muslim Mosque, Inc. will have its temporary headquarters in the HotelTheresa in Harlem. It will be the working base for an action program designed to eliminate the political oppression, the economic exploitation, and the social degradation suffered daily by twenty-two million AfroAmericans.”
Then the reporters began firing questions at me.
* * *
It was not all as simple as it may sound. I went few places without constant awareness that any number of my former brothers felt they would make heroes of themselves in the Nation of Islam if they killed me. I knew how Elijah Muhammad’s followers thought; I had taught so many of them to think. I knew that no one would kill you quicker than a Muslim if he felt that’s what Allah wanted him to do.
There was one further major preparation that I knew I needed. I’d had it in my mind for a long time-as a servant of Allah. But it would require money that I didn’t have.
I took a plane to Boston. I was turning again to my sister Ella. Though at times I’d made Ella angry at me, beneath it all, since I had first come to her as a teen-aged hick from Michigan, Ella had never once really wavered from my corner.
“Ella,” I said, “I want to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.”
Ella said, “How much do you need?”