We Remember Malcolm X 

“A People Must Understand Their History…”

As we celebrate Black History Month, we should not forget that it was during this month, February 21 1965, thatMalcolm X and as he was later known, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was brutally murderedas he got ready to speak inside New York’s famed Audubon Ballroom. 

A People Must Understand Their History

There are may lessons we can learn from Malcolm, one was his insistence that people of African descent (and also continental Africans) should constantly seek to understand their history. He once said in a speech:

“I don’t think any of you will deny the fact that it is impossible to understand the present or prepare for the future unless we have some knowledge of the past. And the thing that has kept most of us – that is, the Afro-Americans – almost crippled in this society has been our complete lack of knowledge concerning the past. The number one thing that makes us differ from other people is our lack of knowledge concerning the past.” 

Malcolm considered that educating oneself about African history was fundamental to one’s identity and as he pointed out: “If we don’t go into the past and find out how we got this way, we will think that we were always this way. And if you think that you were always in the condition that you’re in right now, it’s impossible for you to have too much confidence in yourself, you become worthless, almost nothing.”  However, as Malcolm eloquently argued, knowledge of past achievements, contributions to human development, will tell a people that if they achieved such things in the past, they can achieve them again in the future. Again, to cite Malcolm directly, he said:

“I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive. I certainly wasn't seeking any degree, the way a college confers a status symbol upon its students. My homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the Black race in America. Not long ago, an English writer telephoned me from London, asking questions. One was, ‘What's your alma mater?’ I told him, ‘Books.’ You will never catch me with a free fifteen minutes in which I'm not studying something I feel might be able to help the Black man.”

African youth world-wide should heed Malcolm’s words in studying and reading. Those young men and women languishing in prison and in youth offending institutions should find inspiration in Malcolm’s life in that it was in prison that Malcolm educated himself and had the time to literally read the dictionary from A to Z during his seven years incarceration.

“One of the first things I think young people, especially nowadays, should learn is how to see for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself. Then you can come to an intelligent decision for yourself.”

We Remember Malcolm...

MalcolmX also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of Blacks, a man who indicted White America in the harshest terms for its crimes against Black Americans.  He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans . He was born Malcolm Little to Louise and Earl Little in Omaha, Nebraska, on 19 May 1925. His father died when he was six years old – the victim, he said,  of a White racist group, the KKK.

As the nation’s most visible proponent of Black Nationalism, Malcolm X’s challenge to the multiracial, nonviolent approach of the Civil Rights movement., helped set the tone for the ideological and tactical conflicts that took place within the Black freedom struggle of the 1960s. 

However, after Malcolm’s assassination in 1965, King wrote to his widow, Betty Shabazz: “While we did not always see eye to eye on methods to solve the race problem, I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had the great ability to put his finger on the existence and root of the problem” . On 21 February 1965, just a few weeks after his visit to Selma, Malcolm X was assassinated. King called his murder a “great tragedy” and expressed his regret that it “occurred at a time when Malcolm X was…moving toward a greater understanding of the nonviolent movement” He asserted that Malcolm’s murder deprived “the world of a potentially great leader.” Today Malcolm X is revered as one of the most remembered human rights activist in the history of man. 

Malcolm’s Beliefs

Malcolm was a revolutionary Pan-Africanist and internationalist. He believed in Black people being involved in organization to rid themselves of all forms of oppression in order that they be in control of their reality. 

Malcolm advocated “human rights” for African Americans, and internationalized the issue to the chagrin of the American government. In his own words he argued:

“… we need new friends, we need new allies. We need to expand the civil rights struggle to a higher level – to the level of human rights. Whenever you are in a civil rights struggle ... you are confining yourself to the jurisdiction of Uncle Sam. No one from the outside world can speak out on your behalf as long as your struggle is a civil rights struggle. 

Source: Scholar/activist Ama Biney “Remembering Malcolm 49 Years Later,”  various research and internet reports.)