Anglo-American Culture, Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine, Malcolm X and Black Nationalism

 

Pre-reading vocabulary and phrases:

Black Nationalism:

Spread the Word:

Marked For Death:

 

Malcolm Little was born in 1925 in Nebraska. His mother Louise Little was a housewife and his father, Earl Little, was a minister who preached the ideology of Marcus Garvey – black nationalism. Because of Earl Little’s black nationalism, a white racist organization called the Black Legion threatened to kill the Little family several times. When Malcolm was 4 years old, the Black Legion burned the Little house to the ground. Two years later, they killed Earl Little by crushing his skull and throwing him onto the train tracks. This caused Louise Little to suffer a mental breakdown and, as such, she lost her children to foster homes and orphanages.

 

Malcolm Little was originally a smart, focused student. He was the best student in his middle school and wanted to be a lawyer. However, his favorite white teacher told him that being a lawyer “is not a realistic goal for a nigger.” This caused Malcolm Little to lose interest in school and drop out. By the time he had turned 17, Malcolm Little was selling drugs, controlling prostitutes and running illegal casinos.

 

Police eventually caught him in 1946 and sent him to prison. Malcolm Little was sentenced to ten years (though he only served 7) for burglary. He used his time in prison to develop his education. He read the dictionary several times, read widely on history and philosophy and became involved with the Black Muslim movement.

 

The Black Muslims were officially called The Nation of Islam and followed Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad taught that white people were devils sent from hell to torment Blacks, Hispanics, Arabs and Asians. Where Martin Luther King wanted black and white people to live together as equals, Muhammad wanted blacks to leave America and start their own country. As Malcolm Little studied the work of Elijah Muhammad, he became more and more interested in the Nation of Islam. Malcolm Little, at that time, renounced his “slave name” of Little and started calling himself Malcolm X.

 

Malcolm X’s intelligence and speaking skill helped him to move up quickly within the Nation of Islam. He became the national spokesman and established many new mosques in Detroit and New York. He used newspapers, radio and television interviews to spread the word about the Nation of Islam. Because of Malcolm X’s exceptional work, the membership of the Nation of Islam increased from about 500 members in 1952 to over 30,000 in 1963.

 

Malcolm X was hugely controversial and was in constant demand by the media. This was good for recruitment, but it set up the beginnings of a conflict between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad. This was because although Muhammad was the leader of the Nation of Islam, he was nowhere near as famous as Malcolm X, nor as talented. This caused Malcolm X a great deal of anxiety.

 

The big problems began in 1963 when Malcolm discovered that Elijah Muhammad had been having sex with his teenaged secretaries, a major sin in the Nation of Islam. Some of these affairs resulted in children. Muhammad asked Malcolm X to help cover up the affairs but Malcolm refused and, because of Muhammad’s hypocrisy, Malcolm X began to feel ashamed of leading so many people into the “fraudulent” Nation of Islam. In 1964, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam for good and took a trip to Mecca.

 

This was the first time Malcolm X could experience Islam outside the Nation of Islam and it changed his entire way of looking at life. He met blond haired, blue eyed Muslims “I could call my brothers.” He saw different cultures mingling and coexisting peacefully for the first time. It also marked the first time since joining the Black Nationalist movement that Malcolm X conducted an interview for the benefit of members of other races.

 

This caused even more tension with the Nation of Islam and, late 1964, Elijah Muhammad’s organization marked Malcolm X for death. Undercover FBI agents in the Nation of Islam reported several assassination attempts, including fire bombing and car bombings. Finally, in February of 1965, three Nation of Islam assassins shot Malcolm X 15 times while he spoke, killing him. He was 39 years old.

 

Please listen to these two speeches. The first is from before Malcolm X discovered Elijah Muhammad’s affairs, the second is right after he returned from Mecca.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0kfjxulnt8

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLl2wN1P1Go

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Study Questions:

Do you think that Malcolm X made America stronger or weaker? Why?

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There has never really been a minority nationalism movement in Korea. Do you think there will be in the future?

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Which minority groups in Korea do you think are treated the worst?

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Compare Malcolm’s opinions from before Mecca and after Mecca. What changed?

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What, in your opinion, are the good and bad parts of racially diverse societies like Rome, England and the US?

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Compare Malcolm X’s feelings about white people with Kim Gu’s feelings about the Japanese. How are they similar and how are they different?

 

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