Water Man Spouts

Monday, May 19, 2008

Remembering Malcolm X

Malcolm X was born on this day in 1925. Malcolm avoided politics until he left the Nation of Islam, but in the last year of his life he advocated a program of voter education and registration.

While he recommended that black people register as independents, he was most closely associated with progressive democrats, such as Percy Sutton and Adam Clayton Powell.
Today, I thought it would be worth looking through a few quotes, both by and about Malcolm X. Here are a dozen I like:

{1} "Mrs. Handler had never met Malcolm before this fateful visit. She served us coffee and cakes while Malcolm spoke in the courteous, gentle manner that was his in private. It was obvious to me that Mrs. Handler was impressed by Malcolm. His personality filled our living room. …

"Mrs. Handler was quiet and thoughtful after Malcolm’s departure. Looking up suddenly, she said, ‘You know, it was like having tea with a black panther.’

"The description startled me. The black panther is an aristocrat in the animal kingdom. He is beautiful. He is dangerous. As a man, Malcolm X had the physical bearing and the inner self-confidence of a born aristocrat. And he was potentially dangerous. No man in our time aroused fear and hatred in the white man as did Malcolm, because in him the white man sensed an implacable foe who could not be had for any price …."
--H.S. Handler; Introduction to The Autobiography of Malcolm X

{2} "I’m the man you think you are. ….No, if we’re both human beings we’ll both do the same thing. And if you want to know what I’ll do, figure out what you’ll do. I’ll do the same thing – only more of it."
--Malcolm X; Militant Labor Forum; January 7, 1965

{3} "Without education, you are not going anywhere in this world."
--Malcolm X; Militant Labor Forum; May 29, 1964

{4} "I know often when people talk about Malcolm X, they make him seem larger than life, and that’s dangerous. Because young people, hearing about him – will be led to think they could never be like him, you see. He’s not accessible, then. The truth is, the man was as large as life, a man of great profundity, with a wonderful sense of humor and a loving sense of his people."
--Maya Angelou

{5} "We were willing to listen to Malcolm because, on one hand, Malcolm inspired us. Malcolm said things in New York, in Chicago, around the country, that maybe some people in the South and in other parts of the country didn’t have the courage to say."
--John Lewis

{6} "In Malcolm X’s shadow cabinet there were different people who had expertise on different subjects. I was the man in history and historical information and personality. There were other people in politics, another person occasionally on sociology. The diversity of people in this shadow cabinet, none of them Muslims, was equivalent to the faculty of a good university."
--John Henrik Clarke

{7} Question: "Are you going to go out to register people as Democrats, as Republicans, or what? Are you going to fight the party machines?

Malcolm: "We are going to encourage our people to register as independent voters. First become registered. … We feel that there are more unregistered Negroes in Harlem than there are registered Negroes in both parties. So that any grass-roots operation – and we already have the thing set up where we can register them house by house, we can organize them house by house, block by block ….

"…we intend to try to get a mass involvement, mass participation, and we believe that we can do this by carrying on an education program, where politics is concerned, among the masses to make them see what those who now control the political picture are doing to them. …."
--The Editors Speak; WLIB Radio, NYC; July 4, 1964

{8} "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 a great ability to put his finger on the existence and the root of the problem. He was an eloquent spokesman for his point of view and no one can honestly doubt that Malcolm had a great concern for the problems we face as a race."
--Martin Luther King, Jr; telegraph to Malcolm’s wife, Betty ; February 26, 1965

{9} "Malcolm has become a sort of a tabula rasa, or blank slate, on which people of different positions can write their own interpretations of his politics and legacy."
--Robin D.G. Kelly; historian

{10} "I was the invited speaker at the Harvard Law School Forum. I happened to glance through a window. Abruptly, I realized that I was looking in the direction of the apartment house that was my old burglary gang’s hideout."
--Malcolm X; The Autobiography of Malcolm X

{11} "My greatest lack has been, I believe, that I don’t have the kind of academic education I wish I had been able to get – to have been a lawyer, perhaps. I do believe that I might have made a good lawyer. I have always loved verbal battle, and challenge."
--Malcolm X; The Autobiography of Malcolm X

{12} "…he would forgo doing homework and bury himself in the works of prodigious black authors who sought to explain or amplify the feelings of powerlessness and anger embedded in the hearts of black men: Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, W.E.B. DuBois. Of these readings, he said he most closely identified with the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Since becoming a politician, Obama has steered clear of quoting such a militant and revolutionary figure as Malcolm X. But in his book, he wrote that the activist’s ;force of will’ and ‘repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me’."
--David Mendell; Obama: From Promise to Power


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