His splendidly written autobiography is a case in point. Its exaggerated portrayal of his youthful criminality enhanced his tough image and dramatized the transformation of the pseudo masculine, criminal Malcolm into the manly, political Malcolm. It inspired his followers to feel that, no matter how far they had fallen, they could still raise themselves up and surmount the handicaps that were largely due to the dreadful legacy of slavery. (Perry, ix)
Malcolm's assassination on February 21, 1965, ended his efforts to establish an alliance between his nationalistic followers and the militant offspring of the civil rights movement. Deprived of Malcolm's leadership, African-American politics remained divided into hostile, warring camps. After Malcolm's death, the divisions were evident even among militant blacks who saw themselves as his ideological descendants. On one side were nationalists who resolutely refused to participate in efforts to achieve black advancement through the struggle within the American political system. On the other were radical activists who sought to mobilize African-Americans for confrontational politics while placing little emphasis on the cultural and psychological transformation that would foster effective black political action. (Carson, 43-44)
I've often reflected upon such black veteran numbers men as West Indian Archie. If they had lived in another kind of society, their exceptional mathematical talents might have been better used. But they were black. (Malcolm X with Haley, 120)
Later that same day, Malcolm reached Mount Arafat, along with thousands of other Hajjis, where he spent the rest of the day praying under a tent on the mount. Malcolm sat there, absorbed by the tremendous diversity of peoples sharing the same shelter on the desert ascent. Of that experience, he later reflected that "present in that group was every shade - every shade, every complexion, there was every type of culture..." Malcolm was intensely moved by the realization of the great unity of the Hajj, especially exemplified by the Hajjis' sharing of nourishment, utensils, and even the space needed for prayer and sleep. (DeCaro, 207)
By March 25th, 1964, John Ali could see the debilitating effects of Malcolm X's forced departure on the NOI's financial health and on its morale. Both were at an all-time low. In some mosques, the weekly income had dropped by more than $550, a direct reflection of the exodus of members towards Malcolm's new organizations and the sharp decline in new membership applications. (Evanzz, 223)
Today, market forces in white supremacist capitalist patriarchy have found a way to use Malcolm X. Where black images are concerned, the field of representation has always been plantation culture. Malcolm X can be turned into a hot commodity, his militant black nationalist, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist politics can be diffused and undermined by a process of objectification. (hooks, 155)
And by turning traditional filmmaking inside out, by using familiar forms to make as incendiary a thinker as Malcolm palatable, Lee may in fact be more subversive than he ever has been before. (Turan, 1)
This is probably as big a single worry as the American prison system has today - the way Muslim teachings, circulated among all Negroes in the country, are converting new Muslims among black men in prison, and black men are in prison in far greater numbers than their proportion in the population. (Malcolm X with Haley, 186)
Malcolm X was the prophet of Black rage primarily because of his great love for Black people. His love was neither abstract nor ephemeral. Rather, it represented a concrete connection with a degraded and devalued people in need of psychic conversion. This connection is why Malcolm X's articulation of Black rage was not directed first and foremost at white America. Malcolm spoke love to Black people; he believed the love that motivated Black rage had to be felt by Black people in order for the rage to take on institutional forms. (Cornel West, qtd. in Wood, 48)
One can safely say the Federal Bureau of Investigation has never been a friend to African-Americans. As far back as Marcus Garvey and A. Phillip Randolph the Bureau has more than kept its watchful eye on black leaders trying to uplift their people. (Spike Lee, qtd. in Carson, 13)
Imagine yourself in a hotel room late at night listening to a man whose life story you wish to write and perhaps you'll invent other means serving the end of representing the man's voice, his presence, ultimately his meaning on the page. Perhaps you'll begin to appreciate how intimately truth and technique are entangled. (Wideman, qtd. in Wood, 104)
In any organization, someone must be the boss. If it's even just one person, you've got to be the boss of yourself. (Malcolm X with Haley, 145)
Copyright (c) 2003 by John "Jaycee" Culhane, Undergraduate Student at Lehigh University.
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