Malcolm X: Make It Plain
Malcolm X: Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind? Who taught you to hate the race that you belong to so much so that you don't want to be around each other? You know. Before you come asking Mr. Muhammad does he teach hate, you should ask yourself who taught you to hate being what God made you.
Ossie Davis, Harlem Resident/Actor: Most of us blacks — or Negroes, as he called us — really thought we were free without being aware that in our subconscious all those chains we thought had been struck off were still there, and there were many ways where what really motivated us was our desire to be loved by the white man. Malcolm meant to lance that sense of inferiority. He knew it would be painful. He knew that people could kill you because of it, but he dared to take that risk.
John Henrik Clarke, Friend/Historian: He was saying something over and above that of any other leader of that day. While the other leaders were begging for entry into the house of their oppressor, he was telling you to build your own house.
Sonia Sanchez, Harlem Activist: He expelled fear for African Americans. He said, "I will speak out loud what we've been thinking," and he said, "You'll see. People will hear it and they will not do anything to us necessarily, OK, but I will now speak it for the masses of people." When he said it in a very strong fashion, in this very manly fashion, in this fashion that says, "I am not afraid to say what you've been thinking all these years," that's why we loved him. He said it out loud, not behind closed doors. He took on America for us.
Malcolm X: And I, for one, as a Muslim believe that the white man is intelligent enough. If he were made to realize ho black people really feel and how fed up we are without that old compromising sweet talk — why you're the one who make it hard for yourself. The white man believes you when you go to him with that old sweet talk, 'cause you've been sweet-talking him ever since he brought you here. Stop sweet-talking him. Tell him how you feel. Tell him how — what kind of hell you've been catching and let him know that if he's ready to clean his house up, if he's not ready to clean his house up, he shouldn't have a house. It should catch on fire and burn down.
Harlem, New York 1962
Narrator: On these Harlem street corners for most of this century, black people had celebrated their culture and argued the question of race in America. It was here that Malcolm first joined the street orators who gave voice to Harlem's hope and its anger.
Elder Lewis Michaux, Harlem Activist: I've taught nationalism and that means that I want to go out of this white man's country because integration will never happen. You'll never, as long as you live, integrate into the white man's system.
William Defossett, New York City Patrolman: A hundred and twenty-fifth street and Seventh Avenue was the center of activity among the black street orators. When Malcolm arrived, technically, he had no corner, so he established his base, you might say, in front of Elder Michaux's bookstore.
Maya Angelou, Author: When Malcolm would ascent the little platform, he didn't — he couldn't talk for the first four of five minutes — the people would be making such a praise-shout to him — and he would stand there, taking his due. And then he would open his mouth.
Malcolm X: They call Mr. Muhammad a hate-teacher because he makes you hate dope and alcohol. They call Mr. Muhammad a black supremacist because he teaches you and me not only that we're as good as the white man, but better than the white man, yes, better than the white man. You are better than the white man and that's not saying anything. That's not saying — you know we're just as equal with him. Who is he to b e equal with? You look at his skin. Why your skin look like gold beside his skin.
There was s time when we used to drool in the mouth over white people. We thought they were pretty 'cause we were blind, we were dumb. We couldn't see them as they are. But since the Honorable Elijah Muhammad has come and taught us the religion of Islam, who have cleaned us up and made us so we can see for ourselves, now we can see that old pale thing to look exactly as he look — nothing but a old, pale thing.
Peter Bailey, Harlem Resident: I came away from that rally feeling that with him, once you heard him speak, you never went back to where you were before. You had to — even if you kept your position, you had to rethink it.
Peter Goldman, Journalist: We weren't accustomed to being told that we were devils and that we were oppressors up here in our wonderful northern cities. He was speaking for a silent mass of black people and sang it out front on the devil's own airwaves, and that was an act of war.
Ms. Sanchez: When he came off the stage, I jumped off the island, walked up to him and of course, when I got to him, the bodyguards, you know, moved in front, and he just pushed them away. And I went in front of them and extended my hand and said, "I like some of what you said. I didn't agree with what — all that you said, but I liked some of what you said." And he looked at me, held me hand in a very gentle fashion and says, "One day you will, Sister. One day you will, Sister." And he smiled.
Narrator: To make his message clear, Malcolm used his own life as a lesson for all black Americans. He preached it in fables and parables and later, in writing his autobiography with Alex Haley, he sought some control over how his life would be interpreted in the future.
Alex Haley, Biographer: I would be rather taken by a statement he would make of himself. He would say, "I am a part of all I have met," and by that he meant that all the things he had done in his earlier life had exposed him to things, and taught him skill of one or another sort, all of which had synthesized into the Malcolm, who became the spokesman for the Nation of Islam.
Mr. Hurlburt, Panelist: [?] You were born in Omaha, is that right?
Malcolm X: Yes, sir.
Mr. Hurlburt: And you left — your family left Omaha when you were about one year old?
Malcolm X: I imagine about a year old.
Mr. Hurlburt: And why did they leave Omaha?
Malcolm X: Well, to my understanding the Ku Klux Klan burned one of their homes in Omaha. There's a lot of Ku Klux Klan—
Mr. Hurlburt: They made your family feel very unhappy, I'm sure.
Malcolm X: Well, insecure, if not unhappy.
Mr. Hurlburt: So you must have a somewhat prejudiced point of view — a personally prejudiced point of view. In other words, you cannot look at this in a broad, academic sort of way, really, can you?
Malcolm X: I think that's incorrect, because despite the fact that that happened in Omaha and then when moved to Lansing, Michigan our home was burned down again — in fact, my father was killed by the Ku Klux Klan, and despite all of that, no one was more thoroughly integrated with whites than I. No one has lived more so in the society of whites than I.
Wilfred Little, Eldest Brother: We was the only black children in the neighborhood, but on the back of our property, we had a wooded area, so the white kids would all come over to our house and they'd go back and play in the woods. So Malcolm would say, "Well, let's go play Robin Hood." Well — so we'd go back there to play Robin Hood. Robin Hood was Malcolm, and these white kids would go along with it.
Narrator: Malcolm said he was the lightest skinned of the seven children born to Earl and Louise Little, a reminder, he said, of the white man who hade raped his mother's mother. In 1929, when Malcolm was four years old, his father, a carpenter and preacher, moved the family to Lansing, Michigan.
Cyril Mcguire, Childhood Friend: Lansing was a small town and the west side was the side of town that blacks lived on. Malcolm and his family lived outside of the city and they had a four-acre parcel with a small house on it, so they were sort of considered as farmers.
Narrator: Three months after the Littles moved in, white neighbors took legal action to evict them. A county judge ruled that the farm property was restricted to whites only. But Earl Little refused to move. Here in Michigan, Ku Klux Klan membership was at least 70,000, five times more than in Mississippi. For Malcolm's family, white hostility was a fact of life.
Wilfred Little: Everybody was asleep in our house and all of a sudden, we heard a big boom. And when we woke up, fire was everywhere and everybody was running into walls and into each other, you know.
Philbert Little, Brother: Well, what I recall about that was my mother telling us to, "Get up, get up, get up, the house is on fire," and to get out. That's what I actually recall.
Wilfred Little: I could hear my mother yelling, I hear my father yelling. And so they made sure they got us all rounded up and got us out.
Philbert Little: The house burned down to the ground. No firewagon came, nothing, and we were burned out.
Narrator: Malcolm's father, Earl Little, accused local whites of setting the fire. The police accused Earl and arrested him on suspicion of arson. The charges were later dropped.
Wilfred Little: In the city where we grew up, whites could refer to us as "those uppity niggers," or "those smart niggers that live out south of town." In those days, whenever a white person referred to you as a "smart nigger," that was their way of saying, "This is a nigger you have to watch because he's not dumb."
Philbert Little: My father was independent. He didn't want anybody to feed him. He wanted to raise his own food. He didn't want anybody to exercise authority over his children. He wanted to exercise the authority, and he did.
Wilfred Little: He was always speaking in terms of Marcus Garvey's way of thinking and trying to get black people to organize themselves, not to cause any trouble, but just to do — to work in unity with each other toward improving their conditions. But in those days if you did that, you were still considered a troublemaker.
Narrator: In the 1920's Marcus Garvey, a black nationalist, preached that black Americans should build a nation independent of white society. With membership in the hundreds of thousands, Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association sought closer ties with African countries. The UNIA had its own flag, its own national anthem and an African legion pledged to defend black people at home and abroad. The U.S. Bureau of Investigation labeled Garvey, "one of the prominent Negro agitators." The federal government deported him in 1927, but Malcolm's parents remained Garveyites. Earl recruited new members. Louise wrote for the Garvey newspaper.
Philbert Little: My mother is the one who would read to us the Garvey paper, which was called The Negro World. She also would talk to us about ourself as being independent. We shouldn't be calling ourself "Negroes," or "niggers" and that we were black people and that we should be proud to call ourself black people.
Panelist: What is your real name?
Malcolm X: Malcolm. Malcolm X.
Panelist: Is that your legal name?
Malcolm X: As far as I'm concerned, it's my legal name.
Panelist: Well, would you mind telling me what your father's last name was?
Malcolm X: My father didn't know his last name. My father got his last name from his grandfather and his grandfather got it from his grandfather who got it from the slavemaster. The real names of our people were destroyed—
Panelist: Well, was there any—
Malcolm X: —during slavery.
Panelist: Was there any line, any point in the geneology of your family when you did have to use a last name and if so, what was it?
Malcolm X: The last name of my forefathers—
Malcolm X: —was taken from them when they were brought to America and made slaves, and then the name of the slavemaster was given, which we refuse, we reject that name today and refuse to—
Panelist: You mean, you won't even tell me what your father's supposed last name was or gifted last name was?
Malcolm X: I never acknowledge it whatsoever.
Narrator: September 1931. Malcolm was six years old when his mother had a premonition.
Philbert Little: We were all at the house and we had dinner — supper together. And my mother was holding Wesley, who was my youngest brother. And she may have been nursing him, 'cause she was at the table, and she fell asleep nursing, holding the baby. And my father had gotten up and went in the bedroom to clean up and to go down and collect money. And she woke up and she said, "Earl, Earl, don't go downtown." She says, "If you go, you won't come back."
Narrator: That night around 11 o'clock, Earl Little was found in an isolated area outside of Lansing, his body almost cut in two by the wheels of a streetcar. The police reported Earl Little's death an accident.
Cyril Mcguire: There was a cloud over that whole issue because, at the time, it was perceived that rather than an accident with a streetcar that Earl Little had really been pushed under the wheels of the streetcar. As a matter of fact, I remember hearing just that language, that he was probably pushed under the wheels of that streetcar.
Philbert Little: And my father's death caused a great, great shock in the family, because he was the power. He was the strength. We were organized, we were a structured family. When I'd get out of school, when we got out of school, me and my brothers and sisters, we'd come right home and go to work — in the garden, clean up the chicken shed and get ready for the night, and get up in the morning and all this. We'd pump the water and bring it in the house and all this. This was while Dad was alive, because to not do this brought the consequences of a whipping. So we were disciplined.
And then after my father got killed and my mother's inability to run as fast as I could run or Malcolm enabled us to get away with a lot of things we wouldn't have tried to get away with. So we got looser and looser.
Narrator: Louise Little struggled to raise her seven children through the years of the Great Depression.
Yvonne Little, Youngest Sister: She's reduced to where she has no income. She'd try to get — she got jobs. She was a proud lady. She had a lot of pride. She sold. She crocheted gloves for people. She did a lot of things not to be dependent solely on welfare. She didn't like them telling her what she could do and what she couldn't do.
Wilfred Little: And this is one of the main things that devastated her more than anything else. As time went by, you could see she was wearing down.
Narrator: For seven years, as Malcolm grew into adolescence, his mother slowly withdrew from her family. Two days before Christmas, 1938, Louise Little was diagnosed as paranoid and was sent to Kalamazoo State Hospital.
Yvonne Little: And when I came home from school one day and she wasn't there, I can remember being empty 'cause my mother had never left us. And I felt, you know, the pain of her being gone every day, and it was only going to be a couple of weeks, you know. She was going to get better and come right back home. And it turned into years.
Narrator: Louise Little would remain at Kalamazoo for the next 26 years. The 13-year-old Malcolm watched as the court split up his family, assigning the younger children to foster homes in Lansing and sending him to a white community 10 miles away.
Malcolm X: In the past, the greatest weapon the white man has had has been his ability to divide and conquer. If I take my hand and slap you, you don't even feel it. It might sting you because these digits are separated. But all I have to do to put you back in your place is bring those digits together.
Alex Haley: He was a man who, in the eighth grade in Michigan — a school where I think he was the only black in his class and one of the very few in the school — had been an outstanding straight-A student, you know, who had been in fact the president of his class, and all the others were white in the eighth grade. Obviously, he had to be exceptional to be those things. And then you had the Malcolm who had left school and who had gone to Roxbury, Massachusetts where he had gotten his first exposure to what might loosely be called "hustling."
Malcolm Jarvis, Friend ("Shorty"): I called myself little hustler up in Roxbury in those days. And this particular day, you know, Malcolm X had come into Boston and he had on his zoot suit with the wide-brim hat with the long, three-quarter-length coat with the chain that went down to your ankles. I don't know, the last time I recall, Cab Callowy used that outfit for his stage uniform.
Philbert Little: Now, when Malcolm left Lansing, he had nothing but a old square suit on — "white man's suit," as I call it. When he came back from Boston, oh Lord, Malcolm had a zoot suit on and a wide-brim hat and a chain from his hat down onto his lapel and he was the talk of the town. Everybody was talking about Malcolm.
Malcolm Jarvis: And then when he was dancing on the floor and he was floating around, those pants were like he was a floating balloon, with — that coat was like a wing. The way he'd be dancing and flying around with the big, 10-gallon hat on and the chain flinging. And this used to really shake up the girls.
Philbert Little: In Boston, they called him "New York Red." In New York, they called him "Detroit Red." He had his hair crockonoed, "conked," you know. It was red and he had pictures of him and Billie Holiday and all these people at the time out there who were just being made known to the rest of the black world.
Narrator: Malcolm worked the kitchen crew on the New Haven Railroad between Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. In 1942, he moved to Harlem and at age 17 began traveling in a world of after-hour clubs and small-time hustlers,
Wilfred Littel: He reached a point where he said, "You'll never make it on these janitor jobs and selling sandwiches on these trains and shining shoes and stuff like." He says, "You never will get anywhere."
Malcolm Jarvis: Well, he had the reputation as being a hustler and he was a street person, but he wasn't a hustler. He was a con man, yeah, a con artist. They called him an artist.
Wilfred Little: When the white folks came out at night and they wanted black women, he could arrange for them to get them. If they wanted bootleg whiskey, he knew where to get it. If they wanted drugs, he knew where to get it. He made it possible that he knew what they wanted and he knew where to get it and he would be in the middle where he could make a profit off of it. And this is the way he started doing.
Narrator: Looking back at that time, Malcolm said only three things worried him: jail, a job and the Army. To avoid serving in World War II, he told his draft board that he wanted to organize black soldiers to kill whites. He was judged unfit for the military. Malcolm's gambling and drugs and Harlem nightlife were expensive. He had already been arrested twice for petty crimes. When he moved back to Boston in 1945, he organized a gang to burglarize homes of prominent families. The other gang members included his friend Malcolm Jarvis, his white girlfriend, Bea, and two other white women.
Malcolm Jarvis: This girl knew that these people were down in Florida at that time of the year, there was nobody home. So we broke into the house and we'd get some of their valuables and Malcolm would take most of the stuff and pawn it and get money for his gambling habit. After two weeks of doing this, that's when the case broke when he made the mistake of going to the pawn shop to retrieve a watch worth over a thousand dollars that came out of one of the houses. That's when he was arrested by three policemen.
Narrator: Malcolm Little, Malcolm Jarvis and the three women were charged with breaking and entering. The fact that two black men were with white women became an issue in the court.
Ella Collins, Half Sister: Malcolm was definitely involved with two white women, and this is what made the case so powerful, so outrageous.
Narrator: The women testified that Malcolm had forced them to participate in the burglaries. The two men received a maximum sentence: eight to 10 years in state prison.
Malcolm Jarvis: When they sentenced us, I went out of my mind. I reached up and grabbed the bars of the cage and I shook them, almost shook them right up off the floor, and I hollered at the judge. And I said to him, "You might as well kill me as to give me 10 years in jail."
Ella Collins: Well, I was what they call, "a mad Negro" — I was — and I knew what I was real. I knew there wasn't anything funny about it. I knew that when they laughed all together, they were laughing at, "Look what we did. We doing it to the Negro."
Malcolm Jarvis: Then they had the unintimidated [sic] gall to ask the girls, before they took them out of there, to press charges against us for rape. The girls wouldn't do it.
Narrator: Malcolm Little was 20 years old, facing eight to 10 years in state prison. He had wandered far from the Garvey pride and independence his parents had preached. He was prisoner number 22843.
Malcolm X: To have once been a criminal is no disgrace. To remain a criminal is the disgrace. I formerly was a criminal. I formerly was in prison. I'm not ashamed of that. You never can use that over my head, and he is using the wrong stick. I don't feel that stick. They charged Jesus with sedition. Didn't they do that? They said he was against Caesar. They said he was discriminating because he told his disciples, "Go not the way of the gentiles, but rather go to the lost sheep." Go to the people who don't know who they are, who are lost from the knowledge of themselves and who are strangers in a land that is not theirs. Go to these people. Go to the slaves. Go to the second-class citizens. Go to the ones who are suffering the brunt of Caesar's brutality.
And if Jesus were here in America today, he wouldn't be going to the white man. The white man is the oppressor. He would be going to the oppressed. He would be going to the humble. He would be going to the lowly. He would be going to the rejected and the despised. He would be going to the so-called American negro.
Narrator: Behind prison walls, Malcolm hustled bets, fed his drug habit and argued against the existence of God. The men in the cellblock called him "Satan." But at the same time, encouraged by an older black inmate, Malcolm began reading and taking English courses.
Cyril Mcguire: Malcolm described vividly prison life, that he was in effect lonely and limited, but had plans for — he was going to do a lot of reading, and he certainly did a lot of writing, because I think there were times when he probably wrote to me every week.
Narrator: During the second year in prison, his brothers and sisters wrote to him about what they called "the natural religion for the black man," a religion that taught that black people were the original people, that God was black and was called Allah. They told Malcolm they were now a part of the Nation of Islam, followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah.
The Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Leader, Nation of Islam: I think Islam is one of the greatest religions of all time for our people in America. The so-called American Negro have to be completely re-educated and Islam gives him that qualification that he can feel proud and does not feel ashamed to be called a black man.
Wilfred Little: I came into the Muslim movement in 1947 and then started bringing my brothers and sisters in. And we already had been indoctrinated with the Marcus Garvey's philosophy, so they didn't have anything to do with convincing us about we were black and should be proud. We were already that when we came in.
Philbert Little: So I wrote to Malcolm and told him about—I said to him if he would believe in Allah that he would get out of prison. And that's all I wrote because I know— he had very low tolerance for religion and I didn't intend to lose that tolerance.
Narrator: Malcolm's brothers and sisters wrote the young prisoner that black people in America were part of a lost tribe soon to be delivered out of bondage and that whites, according to Elijah Muhammad, were a race of devils whose domination on earth was about to end.
Wilfred Little: At first he liked every bit of it except one thing he couldn't understand and that was the part they were teaching about the white man being the devil.
Philbert Little: Malcolm wrote to Elijah Muhammad. Elijah Muhammad answered and when he answered, he would cite a part of the portion of the scripture. And then he gave him the key. He said the key— the Bible is a book that everything takes place in that Bible is on this earth.
Wilfred Little: So you don't have to die to go to hell. You can catch hell while you're living. And the white man is the one that's putting that hell on you. Well, that's a very convincing teaching, especially when you're using the white man's history to corroborate this.
Narrator: Malcolm began reading history, philosophy and religion, the writings of W.E.B. Dubois, Shakespeare, Socrates, the fables of Aesop, the lives of Gandhi and Nat Turner.
Wilfred Little: And he finds all this history of how white Christians lynch black Christians. White Christians were the ones who were involved in the slave trade— those were Christians. So Malcolm began to see this and then he began to study it himself and prove if there is such a thing as a real devil on this earth, it has to be the white man.
Narrator: Elijah Muhammad told Malcolm to submit to Allah, but for Malcolm, submission would always be difficult. It took a week before he could force himself to bow in prayer. Later, to help spread the teaching of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm joined the prison debate team, competing against visiting college teams from Harvard and MIT.
Malcolm Jarvis: That's where Malcolm's name and fame started spreading amongst the prison population, and that's when the population started to draw at the debating classes. Most of the fellows used to come over out of curiosity just to hear him speak.
Narrator: In 1950, Malcolm wrote to the governor, demanding the right to practice the Muslim religion in prison. His letters would later end up in FBI files. The Bureau had been keeping a close watch on the Nation of Islam since the late 1930's. Malcolm, considered a troublemaker, was denied an early parole.
Malcolm Jarvis: He was not eligible to be let out at that time because he'd be a threat to society. They considered him dangerous, knowledge-wise and otherwise and religious-wise. He would have been like a rotten apple in a barrel of a thousand— he was going to spoil many.
Narrator: On August 7, 1952, after six and a half years in prison, Malcolm was released. Within a month, he was accepted into the Nation of Islam. Malcolm Little had become Malcolm X.
Mr. Hurlbut: How did you happen to join the Muslim movement?
Malcolm X: I was in prison. I was a very wayward, criminal, backward, illiterate, uneducated and whatever other negative characteristics you can think of type of person until I heard the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. And because of the impact that it had upon me in giving me a desire to reform myself and rehabilitate myself for the first time in my life and also being able to see the effect that it had upon others, this is what made me accept it. And I noticed that after being exposed immediately it instilled with me such a high degree of racial pride and racial dignity that I wanted to be somebody and I realized that I couldn't be anybody by begging the white man for what he had, but that I had to get out here and try and do something for myself or make something out of myself.
Wallace D. Muhammad, Son of Elijah Muhammad: The first time I recall seeing Malcolm was at the home of my father, the Honorable Elijiah Muhammad. And I saw a thin man, tall man, young man with a reddish face. If he was just meeting you, the first thing you would get from him is a smile. He said, "This is Wallace," and I smiled with him. I was happy to see him, because I had heard about him, too. And he said, "the Messenger's son, the Messenger's son," and he was just so excited about the Messenger. And really, it wasn't just seeing Wallace, it was seeing the Messenger's son.
Philbert Little: Where Malcolm came out, he was full of fire. He'd gotten so full of fire that he got out at the right time and the right place so he could expound. He came to Detroit, h was surprised to find there were such few people in this powerful teaching in his mind. And he says, "I'm surprised that you are sitting here and so— many empty seats." He said, "Every time you come out here," he said, "This place should be full." And that excited the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
Narrator: In the early 1950's, the Nation of Islam was unknown in most black communities. Total membership was believed to be no more than 400 people. Malcolm was sent on the road to spread the message. Within two year, he helped organize temples in Boston, Hartford and Philadelphia. Elijah Muhammad then named Malcolm minister of the most important temple on the East Coast, Harlem's Temple Number 7.
Capt. Joseph X, Harlem Fruit of Islam: Mr. Muhammad knew that Malcolm had the experience, that he knew New York and he also knew that he was the kind of man — complexion, heighth [sic], speech and carriage. All that has to be taken in consideration when you select a man to send before the people. Plus this is an international city. You got to have your best in New York and this is why Mr. Muhammad selected him.
Narrator: In 1955 when Elijah Muhammad visited the New York temple, it was to inspect the work of the ambitious and outspoken young minister who had transformed tiny storefronts along the East Coast into a congregation of thousands.
John Henrik Clarke: Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad's message made a whole lot of people feel whole again, human being again. Some of them came out and found a new meaning to their manhood and thier womanhood. Had Elijah Muhammad tried to introduce and orthodox form Arab-oriented Islam, I doubt if he would have attracted 500 people, but he introduced a form of Islam that would communicate with the people he had to deal with. He was the king to those who had no king and he was the messiah to those some people thought unworthy of a messiah.
Newsreel: The teachings in Harlem Elijah Muhammed is like nothing I had ever taken. It's a medicine.
1st Man (Nation of Islam): Right. That's right.
You see, it's the medicine that has cured me of all my ills— Yes, sir, surely. —'cause I was a sick man, That right. And when I embraces the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, these teachings cured me of these ills. Right. I'm a well man now. And I feel good. That's right.
Malcolm X: What about you, Brother? How do you feel about the Honorable Elijah Muhammad?
Boy: The Honorable Elijiah Muhammad is trying to teach all our original people they are in bad shape.
Malcolm X: Yes, Go ahead, Brother.
Boy: Elijah Muhammad trying to wake 'em up.
Narrator: Inside Muslim temples no white people were allowed. Members worked to build a self-sufficient community founded on strict rules and absolute obedience. The Nation set up Muslim schools for its children, teaching mathematics, science, history, and Arabic.
School Children: [reciting] Who is the original man? The original man is the Asiatic black man, the makers of all the kings of the planet Earth.
Narrator: Muslim women studied nutrition, child-rearing and guidelines on how to care for their husbands. Muslim men studied parental responsibility, history, and religion. The elite corps called the Fruit of Islam was trained in hand-to-hand combat and was expected to protect the temples and to punish any members who spoke out against the Messenger.
Gordon Parks, "Life" Photographer: I was surprised, when I went into some of the Muslim families, the faith that they had in Elijah Muhammad and in Malcolm. I asked one father— I said, "Suppose your son came home one day and told you that he was renouncing the Muslim religion." He said, "I would turn him from my door and would never allow him in again." So I asked Malcolm about that. He says. "He meant it and he would do that." And I says, "Not worry about what happened to his son?" "No, he wouldn't worry about what happened to him. His allegiance is with Elijah Muhammad.
Narrator: To help expand the Nation of Islam, Malcolm created a newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, and persuaded other black newspapers to carry the Messenger's weekly column.
Wallace D. Muhammad: His strength was once he believed in a thing, he would give everything he had to it, all of his energies. He'd work— he'd become a workaholic. He worked day and night for it.
Wilfred Little: He only required around four hours' sleep and many times he wouldn't get that. And you just kind of wonder how can anybody keep up that kind of pace, be he did it day in and day out. Plus, on top of that, he's reading. He's reading papers, keeping up what the news is. He's just a person that's tuned into life in such a way that he doesn't miss too much of it.
Narrator: At age 32, after devoting five years to building The Nation, he sought approval of Elijah Muhammad to marry Sister Betty X, a college-educated member of Harlem's Temple Number 7. In the years that followed, the demands of his ministry allowed little time for his growing family.
Betty Shabazz, Wife: He sometime, if I could catch him, would have to read to the children. They would always want the story read again, so that they would really just wait until he was on the last page and say, "Read it again, read it again, read it again," you know. And so that he started giving the books different endings.
John Henrik Clarke: He had a beautiful sense of humor, especially when he was kidding me about pork and whacking me on the back and saying that, "You're a decent human being, smart historian. I'm going to give you a 99 as a human being and you stop eating pork, I'm going to give you 100." Had a beautiful sense of humor, plus the fact that when you got to know him, he was kind of shy.
Narrator: Malcolm was now in the Nation of Islam's inner circle, Elijah Muhammad's most visible representative. He had the Messenger's confidence and the loyalty of thousands of Muslims. In a sense, Malcolm had found a father. Elijah Muhammad had found another son.
On an April night in 1957, a Muslim brother was beaten by New York City police. His skull fractured, Johnson Hinton lay in a back room of a Harlem police station. When work spread that Hinton was dying, Malcolm ordered the Muslims into the streets. Other Harlem residents joined them. The community had endured a long history of police brutality. Many considered the police an occupying force.
Capt. Joseph X: The 28th Precinct was notorious for their prejudice. Naturally, when the people saw us come out there, that was the first time that anyone had marched on the 28th Precinct and protested something that they felt that wasn't right.
William Defossett: I don't know what would have happened in Harlem that night, because the atmosphere— it was— I think the word they used is "charged." Well, this atmosphere was explosive.
Narrator: Malcolm demanded medical treatment for Hinton. After a long negotiation, police agreed to send the prisoner to Harlem Hospital, be even the Muslims refused to disperse.
Robert Mangum, Deputy Commissioner, New York City Police: This sergeant, he came out and tried to chase the Muslims who were standing across the street, and Malcolm came out and told him, "You can't do that." He said, "They're not going to move for you." Malcolm said, "I'll get rid of— I'll send them away." He went out to the front of the station, on the first step, and just waved his hand, and the people walked away.
Narrator: A police commissioner on the scene remarked, "That's too much power for one man to have." Malcolm would later take New York City to court and win the largest police brutality settlement in the city's history.
Robert Mangum: And they realized that any time a person could wave his hand and have a large number of people automatically move away without any conversation, that by the same token that same man could wave his hand and those people to create some kind of disturbance if he wanted to. I believe from that ppoint on the police dpartment and the political people in New York City began to realize they had a significant force in the city to deal with.
Mike Wallace, CBS News: [Newsbeat] Good evening, I'm Mike Wallace. Last week on Newsbeat, our 6:30 news program here on Channel 13, we presented a five-part series which we called "The Hate That Hate Produced," a study of the rise of black racism, of a call for black supremacy among a small but growing segment of the American Negro population.
Narrator: This 1959 documentary was the first television portrayal of the internal activities of the Nation of Islam. Malcolm saw the television program as an opportunity. Elijah Muhammad was against it.
Capt. Joseph X: Mr. Muhammad told Malcolm no, it wasn't going to do any good. All it would do is hurt us in our work, in what we were trying to do. Malcolm wasn't satisfied. He didn't insist, but he continued to ask Mr. Muhammad could he do it. Mr. Muhammad reluctantly agreed.
2nd Man: I charge the white man with being the greatest liar on earth. I charge the white man, ladies and gentleman of the jury, with being the greatest murderer on the earth. I have charged the white man with being the greatest adulterer on earth.
Mike Wallace: Here was the auditorium overflowing — thousands of people — about an organization I knew nothing about? I found it difficult to credit when I saw it. And of course, when we put it on the air, New Yorkers — 'cause that's all who saw it — were stunned that this — there was this organization, the Black Muslims, about which white New Yorkers simply knew nothing.
[documentary]Minister Malcolm X as he addressed a non-Muslim audience.
Malcolm X: How could so few white people rule so many black people? This is the thing you should want to know. How could so few the white man today will tell you that thousands of years ago, the black man in Africa was living in palaces, the black man was wearing silk, the black man in Africa was cooking and seasoning his food. The black man in Africa had mastered the arts and sciences. He knew the course of the stars in the universe before the man up in Europe knew that the earth wasn't flat. Is that right or wrong?
Ossie Davis: I was amazed at his capacity to communicate and at the naked honesty with which he expressed his feelings about black people, about white people. He scared me — I'm sure he intended to — but certainly after I saw him in The Hate That Hate Produced, I know that— I knew that I would never forget this man.
Sonia Sanchez: When I first saw Malcolm on a television, he scared me also. Immediately the family said, "Turn off that television. That man is saying stuff you ain't supposed to hear," so of course we did. But always— you know when the sun comes in the window and you kind of jump up to get it, to close the blinds or pull down the shade, but before you do that, the sun comes in? Well, before each time we'd turn the television off, a little sun came in.
Narrator: While the documentary helped bring in new converts, the racial views of the Nation of Islam shocked white America and many in the black community.
Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: Preaching of racial hatred and racial advantage and the bigotry involved is a bad thing whether it's colored or white. For years, the NAACP has been opposed to white extremists preaching hatred of Negro people and we are equally opposed to Negro extremists preaching against white people simply for the sake of whiteness.
Narrator: Most in the civil rights movement believed that integration was the way to solve America's racial problems, but Malcolm preached that black people were able to solve their own problems without the help of whites. At a time when black Americans began identifying with freedom movements in Africa and Latin America, Malcom developed allicances with revolutionary leaders from around the world. He encouraged black Americans to see themselves not as a minority but as a part of a world majority.
John Henrik Clarke: The rise of African nations concurrent with the spread of the Nation of Islam and the civil rights movement gave black America a burst of pride over and above anything they had had since the decline of the movement of Marcus Garvey.
Malcolm X: They're passing the basket through the crowd and I think everybody standing here should put one dollar in that basket. Don't you think you should? Sure. These are freedom dollars, Brother. We're not asking you to give us some money to make us rich. We put our businesses— the Honorable Elijah Muhammad has set up more businesses than any black man in America.
Narrator: The Nation of Islam, with its interlocking corporations, was now reputed to be the largest black-owned business empire in the United States.
Wallace D. Muhammad: The Nation of Islam, during the early '60s, was perhaps enjoying its best days. We were opening restaurants and grocery stores and seeing Muhammad Speaks paper compete with other black papers. We were seeing Malcolm on television kind of frequently. We were proud of him. In our opinion, he was doing an excellent job of representing the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. We were seeing the Fruit of Islam now not just going through exercises in some small facilities, but we were seeing them in great numbers, hundreds of them on the streets of big cities like Chicago and New York and Los Angeles.
Peter Bailey: My view of the Fruit of Islam was that these were the absolute baddest, cleanest brothers I had ever seen in my life.
Sonia Sanchez: There was some bad blood, you know what I'm saying? I mean, you did not mess with the FOI. When they came out on the street, people would say, "Uh, er, yes, sir, uh-huh."
Narrator: The growing presence of the Fruit of Islam attracted police attention. There were increasing numbers of confrontations and arrests. Malcolm warned that members of the FOI would always obey the law, but would also defend themselves if attacked. In cities across America, police agencies were determined to contain the Black Muslims. It was only a matter of time before the two forces would again collide.
Los Angeles, California
Narrator: On a spring night in 1962, another confrontation. It began as a stop-and-search of Muslim men delivering dry cleaning. It ended with a full police assault on the Muslim temple. This time eight men were shot, one police officer and seven Muslims. Temple secretary Ronald Stokes was dead at the scene.
Gordon Parks: I arrived at the mosque in Los Angeles after the shooting took place, and there was great sadness amongst the people, you know. Malcolm was walking back and forth, shaking his head saying, "They're going to pay for it, they're going to pay for it, they're going to pay for it, they're going to pay for it."
Wallace D. Muhammad: If anyone breaks into our temples, we were to defend the temple with our life. The temple is sacred and those brothers, they acted on what they were taught. And I'm sure that anyone seeing police break into a church would be outraged.
Mayor Sam Yorty, Los Angeles: This didn't come as a great surprise to us, the fact that they would resist our police officers and cause trouble because we have been watching this group for a long time and I think Chief Parker warned some time ago that we might have trouble with them.
Narrator: The Los Angeles Times reported the incident as a Muslim riot and "a wild gunfight," but it was never proven that any of the guns fired belonged to the Muslims. Malcolm called for churches and civil rights organizations to form a united front with the Muslims against police brutality.
Malcolm X: Let us remember that we are not brutalized because we are Baptists. We're not brutalized because we are Methodists. We're not brutalized because we're Muslims. We're not brutalized because we are Catholics. We're brutalized because we are black people in America.
I'm telling you they came out of those cars — and we have enough witnesses to hang them — with their guns smoking. Chief Parker knows this, Mayor Yorty knows this and every police official in the city knows that. They didn't fire now warning shots in the air. They fired warning shots point-blank at innocent, unarmed defenseless Negroes. As I say two of the brothers were shot in the back. Another was shot in the shoulder. Another was shot— two of them were shot — excuse the expression — through the penis.
Let me tell you something and I'll tell you why you say we hate white people. We don't hate anybody. We love our people so much they think we hate the ones who are inflicting injustice against them.
Narrator: Patrolman Donald Weese, the officer who killed Ronald Stokes, testified that he knew Stokes was unarmed, but that Stokes had raised his hands in a menacing way. The all-white coroner's jury deliberated 23 minutes and found the death a justifiable homicide. Fourteen Muslims were then ordered to stand trial on assault charges. Eleven would be found guilty and sentenced to prison.
Benjamin 2X, Nation of Islam: We were people that said, "Never be the aggressor, but if someone attack you, we do not teach you to turn the other cheek." There were Muslims who were not from the East Coast, but from other parts of the country that was actually ready to go out there and kill those police officers, even though they may have been killed in the process of doing it. But that's how strong the attitude of Muslims was against those brothers just being shot like that.
Narrator: The conflict at the Los Angeles mosque brought to the surface the growing differences between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad. The Messenger insisted Allah would avenge Stokes' death, but Malcolm demanded justice in the courts.
Malcolm X: If it were possible for them to get a fair trial, there would be no necessity for trial at all. These are the victims of police bullets, and you don't take the victim in court as a criminal. You take the one shot the victim in court. And it is the police who should be on trial here in Los Angeles.
Philbert X, Brother: Malcolm began to talk less and less about God was going to get rid of the Caucasians and he began to talk about how we was going to be able to bring them to justice and make them guilty and that, "They are guilty according to the law of the land," which was not our argument at all. Our argument was that we were a divine people and that we would be protected and finally delivered, put in the seat of authority by Allah. That was our teaching at that time.
Narrator: To avoid further confrontations with city authorities, Elijah Muhammad summoned Malcolm to a meeting at the Messenger's home.
Gordon Parks: And Elijah Muhammad told him very definitely, "If you had reacted the way you should have reacted, if you had more faith in Allah, Ronald Stokes would be alive." And that was it. He really gave him an upbraiding. And Malcolm said nothing about it, "Well, there was nothing we could do," or anything of that sort. He just listened.
Capt. Joseph X: Mr. Muhammad told him— he said, "That's one man that we lost. I never did tell you that we weren't going to lose anyone, but that's the way it is when you're building a nation." He said, "They were wrong, but if I send my followers out there to do battle with those people in L.A., either undercover or on top of the cover, they will get slaughtered, and I'm not going to do that." And Malcolm didn't like that.
Narrator: Malcolm had always said, "Muslims don't back down." In Harlem, he now had to explain what happened in Los Angeles.
Malcolm X: Ronald Stokes was not the least among the followers of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, he was one of the highest. He was the secretary of our Los Angeles mosque, and as we explained in that rally on May, many of you thought that we should go right on out then and make war on the white man. You wanted to do it yourself, didn't you?
Malcolm X: Didn't you?
Malcolm X: You wanted some action then, didn't you?
Malcolm X: 'Cause you don't like the idea of white people shooting black people down, do you?
Malcolm X: And you're ready to do something about it, aren't you?
Malcolm X: We know you are, and the white man should be thankful that God has given the Honorable Elijah Muhammad the control over his followers that he has so that they can play it cool, calm and collected and leave it in the hands of God.
Narrator: In the months following the Los Angeles incident, Malcolm's faith in the Messenger was further tested by rumors about Elijah Muhammad's private life.
Betty Shabazz: Once a month, he would go to Chicago to take the money to Elijah Muhammad, and he would always go to the side door. And this particular day, when he got to the side door, there were three young ladies where they were knocking and bamming on the door — "Open the door, open the door. We need money for food. Our children don't have have this or that or the other." He immediately felt that, number one, he didn't belong there.
Narrator: Malcolm had long dismissed stories that Elijah Muhammad had fathered eight children with six of his secretaries. Now he approached the Messenger's son Wallace to confirm what he had seen.
Wallace D. Muhammad: So I told him yes. I say, "I know of— I know about that." I say, "You can see things, but you don't want to see it, so you just blot it out in your mind." I say, "I'm aware of secretaries having that kind of relationship with my father, being there with their children." I say, "I've seen him take their children and somewhere in my conscience I'm sure it was registering that that was his family, but I never accepted it to deal with it in my mind. Never did I accept to deal with it in my mind."
Narrator: Officials in the nation accused Wallace Muhammad of starting rumors and conspiring against his father.
Wallace D. Muhammad: The charge that I gave Malcolm information on my father's domestic situation is true, but only after Malcolm had already told me that he witnessed that situation.
Malcolm X: It gives me great pleasure and an honor and a privilege at this time to introduce to you and present to you the Messenger of Allah, your and my beloved leader and teacher, the Most Honorable and Humble Elijah Muhammad.
Wilfred X, Eldest Brother: Malcolm had submitted himself to Elijah Muhammad as his spiritual leader and never tried to see anything else. And the things that he tried to put into practice himself he thought were being also being practiced by his leader. And when he found it differently, it just took all the wind out his sails.
Narrator: In public, the two men continued to embrace. In private, suspicion had replaced faith. Their relationship was further complicated by Elijah Muhammad's failing health.
Capt. Joseph X: Malcolm's popularity naturally grew. Number one, Mr. Muhammad was sick he had bronchitis, so Mr. Muhammad, he only went to large public meetings maybe once a year, twice a year. That was it. All the rest of the time, Malcolm was going everywhere.
Philbert X: It was Malcolm who sparked the growth of the Nation all over the country. He was in demand. Nobody was asking for Elijah Muhammad to speak, they were asking for Malcolm to speak. And naturally, Malcolm got more involved with civil rights struggle and his argument became more an argument that you would expect from someone who was in the civil rights struggle than you would for someone who was following the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
Wallace D. Muhammad: The '60s showed us the white man in the image that the Nation of Islam had cast him in, in the image of brutal person, you know, turning the dogs out on demonstrators, using the fire hoses. So all this helped the Nation of Islam's charge against the white race and made it possible for Muhammed, Malcolm X, to get the press, to get the camera on him and to state what he had confidence in that was an alternative, and that was seperation.
Malcolm X: As Muslims, we believe that separation is the best way and the only sensible way, not integration and— but on the other hand, when we see our people being brutalized by white bigots, white racists, we think that they are foolish to allow themselves to be beaten and brutalized and do nothing whatsoever to protect themselves.
If a dog is biting a black man, the black man should kill the dog, whether the dog is a police dog or a hound dog or any kind of dog. If a dog is fixed on a black man when that black man is doing nothing but trying to take advantage of what the government says is supposed to be his, then that black man should kill that dog or any two-legged dog who sicks the dog on him.
James Baldwin, Author/Activist: When Malcolm talks all the Muslim ministers talk, they articulate for all the Negro people who hear them, who listen to them, they articulate their suffering, the suffering which has been in this country so long denied. That's Malcolm's great authority over any of his audiences. He corroborates their reality.
Sharon 10X, Nation of Islam: I was probably about 14 years old and I was involved in demonstrations at this construction site. The community was demanding integration of the workforce. We realized that Malcolm had come to watch the demonstration. When my shift changed, I went across the street to talk to Malcolm. We had quite an argument that morning, and he tried to explain to me what was wrong with me laying down on the ground in front of a cement truck.
And Malcolm said if these are people who could lynch black people, murder black children, enslave people, why couldn't they run over somebody with a truck? And he said, "Oh, they'd say it was an accident. He'd say, 'Oops, my foot slipped,' but you'd be just as dead." And when he left and I turned around to go back across the street, I went back and I got on the picket line, but I never laid down in the street in front of a truck again.
Peter Goldman: We were sitting across the street at the Shabazz Frosti Kreem and talking about race relations in America, and Malcolm at one point said, "OK, what's your solution?" And I don't-- he was not asking me for advice, he was-- he just wanted to sort of put me on the spot for a moment, I think. And I was, at the time, under the spell of Dr. King and his notion of the beloved society which would be colorblind, in which color would not be a disability for anybody — it would disappear, but it wouldn't be a disability for anybody — it wouldn't disappear, but it wouldn't be a disability — and Malcolm just kind of looked back at me and said, "You're dreaming. I haven't got time for dreams."
Kenneth Clarke: The goal of Dr. King is full equality —
Malcolm X: No —
Kenneth Clark: — and full rights of citizenship for Negroes.
Malcolm X: The goal of Dr. Martin Luther King is to give Negroes a chance to sit in a segregated restaurant beside the same white man who had brutalized them for 400 years. The goal of Dr. Martin Luther King is to get Negroes to forgive the people who have brutalized them for 400 years by lulling them to sleep and making them forgetting what those whites have done to them. But the masses of black people in America today don't go for what Martin Luther King is putting down. As you said in one of your articles, it's psychologically insecure or something of that sort, I forget how you put it. But you didn't endorse what Martin Luther King was doing yourself.
Kenneth Clarke: I do not reject his goals of full integration and full equality rights of American citizens. Do you reject these goals?
Malcolm X: If you don't think that he's walking on the right road, I'm quite sure you don't agree that he'll get to the right place.
Ossie Davis: We were aware or felt that it was somewhat dangerous to be too closely associated to Malcolm. He was saying some pretty rough things, particularly about whites, and those of us who wanted to keep peace with the white world — some of us, you know, had our jobs out in the community — we didn't really want to get too close to Malcolm.
Kenneth Clarke: It has been suggested also that this movement preaches a gospel of violence, that —
Malcolm X: No, the black people in this country have been the victims of violence at the hands of the white man for 400 years, and following the ignorant Negro preachers, we have thought that it was godlike to turn the other cheek to the brute that was brutalizing us. And today, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is showing black people in this country that just as the white man and every other person on this earth has god-given rights — natural rights, civil rights, any kind of rights that you can think of when it comes to defending himself — black people should have -- we should have the right to defend ourselves also.
Narrator: In August 1963, 250,000 Americans gathered for the march on Washington.
Yvonne Little: Malcolm came to us. He told us the story about the march on Washington. And one thing I can say about Malcolm, anytime he told us something, he could back it up. He had a article and he brought the— he said, "I'm going to tell you. I know what I'm talking about." He says, "Who pays the bills for civil rights?" And he said, "The angels are white." And what he went on to say was, "You have to fight your battles, and it started in the street. But once you let them become integrated, it gets cool." And then he relates it to a cup of coffee that is hot and as soon as you water it— put the milk in it, it cools down. And these analogies Malcolm used sometimes were funny, but they got home, they hit home.
Gloria Richardson, Southern Civil Rights Leader: Most of the people that we were organizing had heard also of Malcolm and that— and respected him and listened to him. And, you know, any time that he was going to be on, they made a effort to hear those speeches and felt that they needed to be fought against and, I suppose, not always nonviolently.
Narrator: Nineteen days after the march on Washington, a bomb blew apart the Sunday school of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Twenty people were injured. Four little girls were killed.
Peter Bailey: Here you're talking about bombing a church and killing four little girls, and the feeling of anger and not being able to do something or not do something was— I remember was tremendous.
Benjamin 2x: A lot of us sort of became dissatisfied, because — and Malcolm really became somewhat dissatisfied — he never spoke of it — that we weren't doing anything to help the— our people who were being brutalized by the whites and the police during the civil rights movement. We felt that we should have gotten involved.
Malcolm X: One white man named Lincoln supposedly fought the civil war to solve the race problem and the problem is still here. And then another white man named Kennedy came along, running for president, and told Negroes what all he was going to do for them if they voted for him, and they voted for him 80 percent, and he's been in office now for three years and the problem is still here.
When police dogs were biting black women and black children and black babies in Birmingham, Alabama, that Kennedy talked about what he couldn't do because no federal law had been violated, and as soon as the Negroes exploded and began to protect themselves and got the best of the crackers in Birmingham, then Kennedy sent for troops. And there was no— he used — he didn't have any new law when he sent for the troops when the Negroes erupted than he had at the time when whites were erupting.
So we are within our rights and with justice— with justification when we express doubt concerning the ability of the white man to solve our problem and also when we express doubt concerning his integrity, concerning his sincerity, because you will have to confess that the problem has been around here for a long time and whites have been saying the same thing about it for the past 100 years and it's no nearer a solution today than it was a hundred years ago.
Capt. Joseph X: Well, he was changed, changed from religious talks to nationalistic talk to the point where I told him — meaning Malcolm — that I listened to him when he first started and I listened to him now and that I hear a change. He say, "What kind of change you mean?" I say, "Well, your talks when you first started out, you know, caused me to have chills when you speak because of the truth that you were saying. But now I don't feel that anymore." He told his answer to me, he said, "Well," he said, "maybe you have lost your religious or your spirit." I say, "Well, maybe I have, but I'm just letting you know what I feel."
Wilfred X: After a while, we began to notice that there were some rumblings from the family, from Elijah Muhammad's family. Every now and then there'd be little things they would say that let you know that they got a problem with Malcolm rising up before the public like he's doing, because everybody's beginning to recognize him now as the spokesman. All right, the spokesman might be all right, but at the same time he's getting the publicity this and the media's got him. Everybody is Malcolm, Malcolm, Malcolm X, Malcolm X, and you only hear— you starting to hear Elijah Muhammed's name less and less.
Narrator: Malcolm believed he could handle the jealousies within the Nation of Islam, but tensions between him and the Messenger would come to a head in late November 1963.
Sharon 10X: So we were sitting in the restaurant drinking coffee, having this meeting and the captain of the mosque, Joseph, got a telephone call from his wife. And Joseph got up and went to a phone booth, took the call, and he came back to the table looking visibly shocked. And he said that his wife had just told him that Kennedy had been shot. Malcolm sent somebody to get a radio out of the back and we plugged in the radio and listened and the announcer was saying, "To repeat, we're confirming that the President has been shot in Dallas, Texas and at this point, we don't know how serious it is." And Malcolm said— immediately, he said, "That devil is dead."
Capt. Joseph X: John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Mr. Muhammad had his son call Malcolm. He said, "Brother Minister Malcolm, my father told me to tell you — and we're calling all over the country — that John F. Kennedy was assassinated and that we should not say anything in a derogatory way whatsoever because the man is the President of the United States and that people love him."
Narrator: The Muslims had scheduled a rally at the Manhattan Center in New York City. The day of the rally, the Messenger called Malcolm to remind him to teach the spiritual side and avoid saying anything about the President's death.
Sharon 10X: And he went in this litany, comparing other leaders around the world who had somehow suffered at the hands of the United States government or its agents and how that compared to what had just happened to Kennedy. And he said, "Patrice Lumumba died and his wife became a widow. His people had their leader cut down," and the U.S. government had been involved in doing that. And he went through a string of these, always winding up with the involvement of the United States government. So that the final point that when you do those kinds of things all around the world, you set up a situation, an atmosphere, an environment in the world and sooner or later those chickens come home to roost.
Capt. Joseph X: When he answered, I was really— I was really took back. I didn't understand that. And he answered the question. He just said, "Well," he said, "I know I'm going to get in trouble for this, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a case of the chickens coming home to roost." And actually, John Ali, the national secretary, was there and that's how Mr. Muhammad got the news so fast.
John Ali, National Secretary, Nation of Islam: This statement is from Messenger Elijah Muhammad the leader of the Muslims in America. Minister Malcolm Shabazz, addressing a public meeting at Manhattan Center in New York on Sunday, December 1st, did not speak for the Muslims when he made comments on the death of the President, John F. Kennedy. He was speaking for himself and not Muslims in general. And Minister Malcolm has been suspended from public speaking for the time being.
Narrator: While the Nation of Islam publicly grieved for the slain president, the leadership announced the silencing of Malcolm X for 90 days. He was to give no speeches and to have no contact with the press.
Peter Goldman: Well, we were doing a lot of Kennedy stories and there was going to be a little one talking about Malcolm having been suspended. And I was expecting to pick up the phone, I'd get a quote and that would be it. In this case, he held me on the phone for longer than I had expected, and he sounded upset, he sounded worried, and it was the first time I had ever sensed vulnerability in this guy who I had always been accustomed to thinking of as an extremely strong man.
Narrator: Newspapers predicted a power struggle within the Nation of Islam. It was later learned the FBI fed stories to local reporters in an attempt to deepen the rift between Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm, isolated and exhausted, accepted an invitation to Miami where young heavyweight contender Cassius Clay was training for his championship bout against Sonny Liston. Though not a member of the nation, Clay had been visiting Muslim temples for two years and had asked Malcolm to help him mentally prepare for the fight against Liston.
Attalla Shabazz, Daughter: Well, going to Florida for my family was a honeymoon, my parents referred to it as a honeymoon. Of course, its significance of us going as a family was much stronger and meaningful for them. For us, it was just an opportunity to be with each other, but as my mother talked about it, as my father talked about it, it was the first time in their real life as a marital union that they had time for themselves.
Narrator: Malcolm offered to bring Cassius Clay into the Nation of Islam in exchange for his own reinstatement, but the Nation's hierarchy ignored Malcolm's offer. Like most of America, they saw the young boxer as a loudmouth with little chance of beating Liston. As Malcolm watched from the ringside, the young Clay wore down the older champion. At the beginning of the seventh round, a battered Liston could not come out of his corner. Clay had become the new heavyweight champion of the world.
Ist Reporter: OK, give us the poetry on number seven.
Cassius Clay, World Heavyweight Champion: He wanted to go to heaven/ So I took him in seven.
Ist Reporter: You took him in seven.
Cassius Clay: I am the king of the world!
Ist Reporter: Hold it, hold it, hold it.
Cassius Clay: I'm prettier.
Ist Reporter: Hold it, you're not that pretty.
Cassius Clay: I'm a bad man.
Ist Reporter: Wait, wait—
Cassius Clay: I shook up the world! I shook up the world!
2nd Reporter: What do you think of Cassius's victory in Miami?
Malcolm X: I think it was a great victory. He proved he was the best man.
2nd Reporter: And where were you during the fight?
Malcolm X: I was in the auditorium, watching the fight.
2nd Reporter: Right at ringside?
Malcolm X: Right at ringside. I was in seat seven.
Narrator: The Nation's leadership bypassed Malcolm and called Clay directly. They accepted the young champion into the Nation of Islam and announced his new name, Muhammad Ali, at their annual convention on Savior's Day. Malcolm was not invited. In his place, introducing Elijah Muhammad, was Malcolm's former protege, the minister from Boston, Louis X.
Louis X, Nation of Islam: And I would meet the man that I had lived for and fought for and longed for all the days of my life.
Benjamin 2X: Minister Malcolm was honest. He was sincere. He was dedicated to the uplifting of African-American people. Then you had another group of people who were officials there in Chicago who were— who were dedicated to the uplifting of themselves. He accused them of taking money, of buying expensive jewelry, of buying furs. He accused them of converting the Nation of Islam into a criminal organization.
John Henrik Clarke: A lot of the well-placed people in Islam had been trained by Malcolm. Some of them had been reformed by Malcolm. They liked their little petty power positions, and there were other people in the Nation with aspiration toward that number one slot. And if Elijah Muhammad died and if Malcolm X took over the Nation, the first thing he might do was some serious housecleaning. He would move the money-changers out of the temple. So the idea was to get rid of him before the event of the passing of the old man.
Narrator: On March 8, 1964, Malcolm announced that he was leaving the Nation of Islam. He formed the new religious organization called the Muslim Mosque, Incorporated for those who followed him out of the Nation, but Malcolm knew that a rival mosque would be seen as a direct challenge to Elijah Muhammad.
Ossie Davis: And he comes into this very room and he sits there and we talk to him. He says, first of all, that he had arrived early, but because he was ahead of time, he'd driven around the block a couple of times. He wanted to be exactly on time and he was. We sat and listened. We didn't have any questions. We knew what the anguish was. We knew what was happening. And he just seemed to need a friendly ear, so we let him talk.
And he talked about his time in prison. He talked about the times when he first heard of Elijah Muhammad and the change it made in his life. He expressed that deep hurt with him that his father had rejected him. And as he sat there, it was evident that if Elijah Muhammad had just done that at that moment, whatever the differences were between them, Malcolm would have been off and running.
Sharon 10X: Malcolm was certainly a beloved son of the Harlem community and people were interested in his side of the story. Elijah Muhammad was somebody in a picture on the wall, someone whose name was mentioned, but Harlem didn't know him. They knew Malcolm and loved Malcolm and remained loyal to Malcolm long after that split.
Malcolm X: So what you and I have got to do is get involved. You and I have to be right there, breathing down their throat. Every time they look over their shoulder, we want them to see us. We want to make them— we want to make them pass the strongest civil rights bill they've ever passed, because we know even after they pass it they can't enforce it. In order to do this, we're starting a voters registration drive, not as Democrats or Republicans, but registered as Independents. If you don't have the sense of responsibility to get registered, we'll move you out of town.
Narrator: Malcolm called for an aggressive plan not only to gain political power but to move black people towards total control of their community.
Malcolm X: It's going to be the ballot or the bullet.
Peter Bailey: Other ethnic groups— other ethnic and racial groups came into our community and own the stores. They run the schools. They run the supermarkets. They own the movie theaters. They own the— you know, the— almost anything in the community that is generating income is owned by the outsiders.
Malcolm X: My personal economic philosophy is also black nationalism, which means that the black man should have a hand in controlling the economy of the so-called Negro community, he should be developing the type of knowledge that will enable him to own and operate the businesses and thereby be able to create employment for his own people, for his own kind. And the social philosophy also is black nationalism, which means that instead of the black man trying to force himself into the society of the white man, we should be trying to eliminate from our own society the ills and the defects and make ourselves likable and sociable among our own kind.
Mary Kochitama, Harlem Activist: Malcolm's whole agenda was different. He was about total independence, he was about self-determination, self-reliance, self-defense when necessary, and of course, he was still fighting for the same thing that the others were— for justice. And so I felt that Malcolm is the person I want to follow.
Narrator: The growing popularity of Malcolm's new movement challenged those who remained loyal to Elijah Muhammad.
Philbert X: I didn't feel that I would have been a very good believer in Islam if I had just— because my own brother had left or whatever he had done, that I would leave. I wasn't that kind of a follower. Yeah. I would never have tried to coax Malcolm back, but at the same time, I would have gone on teaching because I was cleaning people up and I was making people that were indecent decent, and I liked that.
Announcer: [radio broadcast] Now, at this time, Minister Philbert.
Philbert X: Ordinarily, I would not suggest the airing of differences between brothers to outsiders and especially over a news media, but because of the grave consequences of recent events, I submit to this medium.
Because I, Philbert X, a minister of Muhammad's Mosque of Lansing, Grand Rapids, Flint and Muskegon, Michigan love Islam, our teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and all of his followers, I think someone should say something to speak out against the acts of my blood brother Malcolm.
The purpose of making that statement was to fortify the Muslims, so I wanted to talk to the Muslim for the point— and that's why I was brought to Chicago — to make a statement that would strengthen the Muslims. So I went forth to talk about Islam and how it is— my regular teaching. But when I got ready to make my statement, John Ali put a paper in front of me and told me I should read that, that it had been prepared for me to make.
Radio Broadcast: Because I have seen and bear witness as to how Malcolm was raised from a level of nothing to a place of honor and respect throughout the world as a result of Mr. Muhammad's direction; and because now I see my brother pursue a dangerous course which parallels that of the precedent set by Judas, Brutus and Benedict Arnold and others who betrayed the honor and trust relationship between them and their leaders; because I am aware of the great mental illness which besets, unfortunately, many in America and which besetted [sic] my mother, whom I love, and many of my other brothers and which now may have taken another victim, my brother Malcolm—
And if I had read it, I wouldn't have read it over the air, you see. If I had looked at it, I wouldn't have read it over the air. And I asked John Ali about it. And he says, "Oh," he says, "that's just a statement that was prepared for you to read." He said, "I know the Messenger will be very pleased with the way you read it," and that was it.
Wilfred X: I talked to Malcolm about what Philbert had said, and Malcolm said he wasn't surprised. He said he knew that they were going to use everybody they could and they could see that they could use Philbert and that they were going to do it. He said he wasn't surprised at the things that Philbert had said in the paper and all, and that he was angry that Philbert would do that, but he wasn't surprised at it.
Benjamin 2X: See, in Islam, when you are considered a hypocrite, it's quite different than saying a hypocrite in Christianity or just a hypocrite who posed as a friend. In Islam, when you are accused of being a hypocrite, there are times when your life can be put on the line.
Wallace D. Muhammad: I recall getting some of those papers and one I remember that stays in my mind is a picture that had Malcolm with horns on his head and his head had been severed and they were calling him a Judas. And I recall reading the language of ministers in the paper. I won't say Farrakhan, but I know he was one of them, but there were other ministers, too.
And I recall reading their language and I said to myself, "They're trying to get him killed. They want him dead."
Narrator: In April 1964, Malcolm traveled to Saudi Arabia. For some time, he had been studying orthodox Islam. Now he arrived in Jedda [sp?], on his way to perform the Haj, a pilgrimage required of all Muslims. Members of the Saudi royal family helped him gain entry to the holy city of Mecca.
Mohmaed Al-Faysal, Prince of Saudi Arabia: My first impression of him was an eye-opener, because I saw a different person totally. I didn't see the fiery— fire-breather. I saw a very timid, almost shy man.
Ahmed Osman, Dartmouth College Student: When a person performs a Haj, there are certain rituals through which he has to go. All people have to dress in the same simple way and as such, you cannot distinguish during the Haj any people on account of their status, on account of their national origin. It is a demonstration of human brotherhood.
Mohmaed Al-Faysal: Because everybody was in this white garb — the rich, the poor, the powerful, the weak, the sick, everybody, and they were all intermingled. And I think that had such a profound impact on Malcolm.
Mary Kochitama: [reading postcard] "Greeting from the holiest and most sacred city on earth. I often think of the warm friendliness of your wonderful family. Brother Malcolm."
Gloria Richardson: [reading postcard] "Greeting from the ancient land of Arabia. Allah has blessed me to visit the holy city of Mecca where I witnessed pilgrims of all colors" — and "all colors" is underlined — "from all parts of this earth displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood like I've never seen before. It is truly a sight to behold. El Haj Malik El Shabazz." And I guess maybe he thought I wouldn't know who it was, so in parentheses, he has "Malcolm X."
Narrator: Malcolm's letters to his followers made news back in America and raised the question: had he changed his position on race?
3rd Reporter: He does speak of brotherhood, the brotherhood of all races, colors and so on in the holy land.
James Shabazz, Muslim Mosque, Inc.: He says, "There were tens of thousands of pilgrims all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black skinned Africans, but were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe could never exist between the white and the non-white."
3rd Reporter: But he has backtracked a little from the position that all white men are devils if he's saying that—
James Shabazz: I wouldn't say that he is —
3rd Reporter: — in respect that —
James Shabazz: I wouldn't say that he has backtracked. One can make an adjustment in one's direction without it being backwards. When you say that he has backtracked, it seems as though that you imply you would prefer that he call white people devils and not to call them devils, that he's going in the wrong direction.
3rd Reporter: Nobody likes to be called a devil.
James Shabazz: So, well then I — then you wouldn't considered it a backtrack if he stopped calling white people devils, then, would you?
3rd Reporter: No.
Narrator: After his pilgrimage, Malcolm spent three weeks in Africa. On May 21st, two day after his 39th birthday, he returned to New York.
4th Reporter: Malcolm, have your experiences with white-skinned Muslims in Africa and the Middle East made you feel that relations between Negroes and whites who are not Muslims is any more possible?
Malcolm X: When I was on the pilgrimage, I had close contact with Muslims whose skin would in America be classified as white and with Muslims who would themselves be classified as white in America, but these particular Muslims didn't call themselves white. They looked upon themselves as human beings, as part of the human family and therefore they looked upon all other segments of the human family as part of that same family.
4th Reporter: Well, has this—
Malcolm X: Now, they had a different look or a different air or a different attitude than that which is reflected in the attitude of the man in America who calls himself white. So I said that if Islam had done this — done that for them, perhaps if the white men in America would study Islam, perhaps it could do the same thing for him.
5th Reporter: Are you prepared to go into the United Nations at this point and ask that charges be brought against the United States for its treatment of American Negroes.
Malcolm X: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. [audience applause] The audience will have to be quiet. Yes, the — as I pointed when I was in-- during my traveling, that nations look — African nations and Asian nations and Latin American nations look very hypocritical when they stand up in the United Nations, condemning the racist practices of South Africa and that which is practiced by Portugal and Angola, and saying nothing in the U.N. about the racist practices that are manifest every day against Negroes in this society.
Narrator: As media attention increasingly focused on Malcolm, the Nation of Islam stepped up its attacks and filed eviction papers to force him from his home.
Peter Goldman: Well, Malcolm, in the spring and early summer of 1964, was in a desperate situation with Nation of Islam and the one weapon he had left was his knowledge of the Messenger's indiscretions with various women who were working for him as secretaries. He called one guy at The New York Herald Tribune and tried to interest him in the story. It was considered libelous, so they wouldn't do it.
Narrator: When Malcolm appeared in court to challenge the eviction proceedings, he used the trial to reveal the private affairs of Elijah Muhammad.
6th Reporter: Why are they threatening your life?
Malcolm X: Well, primarily because they're afraid that I will tell the real reason that they've been — that I'm our of the Black Muslim movement, which I never told, I kept to myself. But the real reason is that Elijah Muhammad, the head of the movement, is the father of eight children by six different teenaged girls, six different teenaged girls who were his private personal secretary.
Wallace D. Muhammad: That was a serious thing, the most serious thing, and to charge the Honorable Elijah Muhammad with such would be really to take your own life — take your life in your own hands, you know. You would be risking your life. I'm just being plain. I'm being open and plain with you. It would really mean that you — somebody might kill you in the Nation of Islam.
Mike Wallace: Are you not perhaps afraid of what might happen to you as a result of making these revelations?
Malcolm X: Oh, yes. I probably am a dead man already.
Mike Wallace: What do you mean?
Malcolm X: Well, when you understand the makeup of the Muslim movement and the psychology of the Muslim movement, as long as they — I myself by having confidence in the leader of the Muslim movement, if someone came to me and I had no knowledge whatsoever of what had taken place and they told me what I'm saying, I would kill them myself. The only thing that would prevent me from killing someone who made a statement like this, they would have to be able to let me know that it's true.
Now, if anyone had come to me other than Mr. Muhammad's son, I never would have believed it even enough to look into it, but I had been around him so closely I had seen indications of it — of the reality of it, but my religious sincerity made me block it out of my mind.
Narrator: At the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, Malcolm announced the formation of a political group modeled after the Organization of African Unity overseas.
Peter Bailey, Organization of Afro-Americans Unity: Brother Malcolm formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity for those of us who were interested in his political, economic and cultural programs. I think he was aware that there were people out there — you know, from his travels around — that were people out there who wanted to work with him but who were not prepared to become Muslims in order to do so.
Malcolm X: One of the first things that the independent African nations did was to form an organization called the Organization of African Unity. This Organization of Afro-American Unity, which has the same aim and objectives — to fight whoever gets in our way, to bring about the complete independence of people of African decent here in the western and first here in the United States: and bring about the freedom of these people by any means necessary.
Narrator: In July 1964, Malcolm was invited to join heads of state from Africa and the Middle East at the Organization of African Unity conference in Cairo, Egypt.
John Henrik Clarke: Malcolm X saw no contradiction between the African fight and the black American fight in the United States. He thought one was an extension of the other, that he can draw support from one to enhance the other.
Ahmed Osman: In the 1960s, Africans had a lot of misgivings about American foreign policy in Africa, because unfortunately at that time the American foreign policy was supportive of the colonial policies of countries like Belgium. And the only voice which was echoing the aspirations of Africans in the United States was that of Malcolm.
Mohmaed Al-Faysal: And there were many Americans who came, but non, non — without exception — who had the impact that Malcolm had: the man of a message and the message was not to America only.
7th Reporter: Malcolm what is your purpose here?
Malcolm X: Well, my purpose here is to remind the African heads of state that there are 22 million of us in America who are also of African descent and to remind them also that we are the victims of America's colonialism or American imperialism, and that our problem is not an American problem, it's a human problem. It's not a Negro problem, it's a problem of humanity. It's not a problem of civil rights, but a problem of humanity.
Narrator: Malcolm traveled into 14 African nations and met with 11 heads of state. U.S. intelligence agencies followed him from country. In Nigeria, he was given the name Omowale, "the son returns."
Attallah Shabazz: When my father was abroad, we had a world map on the living room wall and any time you got a little lonesome and wondered where Daddy was, we'd run over to that map, and "Where is he now?" And he's in Cairo, which is the capital of Egypt, and he's over here with Nkrumah and he's over — so there was a different kind of passage that we maintained when he was abroad.
Narrator: Malcolm returned in late November 1964. He resumed hi weekly OAAU rallies at the Audubon Ballroom and continued his collaboration with Alex Haley on his autobiography.
Yvonne Little: He said, "You know, I'm writing this book and I don't really know about doing this book." He had some problems with the family having to be subjected to what — the things that he would say. I said, "Malcolm, you know what? None of us are ever going to amount to anything until we get our mother out of Kalamazoo." I had preyed on my mind for years, and I didn't talk about it, but it was eating away. And he looked at me like, "I'm glad you said that 'cause it's been bothering me, too." And he said, "Vonnie. Promise. I'll do something." And the next thing — Malcolm never got back to me. The next thing I knew, I got a call. My mother was in Lansing at my brother Philbert's.
Alex Haley: Then he later told me that it had been pent up in him all these years. He didn't want to think about it. He certainly didn't want to talk about it, because he did not feel good about it. But he felt so great when he and his brother came together to have their mother released.
Narrator: In December 1964, Malcolm debated at the Oxford Union in England.
Malcolm X: I read once, passingly, about a man named Shakespeare. I only read about him passingly, but I remember one thing he wrote that kind of moved me. He put it in the mouth of Hamlet, I think, it was, who said, "To be or not to be." He was in doubt about something – whether it was nobler in the mind of man to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune — moderation — or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.
And I go for that. If you take up arms, you'll end it, but if you sit around and wait for the one who's in power to make up his mind that he should end it, you'll be waiting a long time. And in my opinion, the young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you're living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there's got to be a change.
People in power have misused it and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built and the only way it's going to be built with — is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone — I don't care what color you are — as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth. Thank you.
Ossie Davis: Malcolm was always involved somewhere in the struggle, and I remember, in January of 1965, Juanita Poitier set up a meeting at her house for the regular civil rights leaders to meet with Malcolm X to work out the differences between us so we could come from that meeting with a common platform. Once again, A. Phillip Randolph were there, Whitney Young was there, Dorothy Hieght was there. Malcolm X was there. Several others were there. Martin Luther King couldn't make it, but he sent a representative. And we spent that day discussing Malcolm's philosophy, the mistakes he made, what he wanted to do now and how he could get on board the people's struggle that was taking place.
February 4, 1965
Narrator: In his effort to support a black united front, Malcolm accepted an invitation from SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, to speak in Selma, Alabama. It was the first time he had traveled south to work with the civil rights movement.
Malcolm X: And I think that the people in this part of the world would do well to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King and give him what he's asking for and give to him fast before some other factions come along and try to do it another way.
Narrator: The next week, Malcolm was denied entry into France on the grounds that his presence would disturb public order. By this time, Malcolm began to believe that the forces arrayed against him were bigger than the Nation of Islam, but he maintained his relentless pace.
Attalah Shabazz: Whenever I saw my father out publicly -— you know, from a child's perspective, you know, at an airport — it was an invasion. You know, you're going to pick up Daddy from the airport and there's a slew of photographers and other people you haven't seen him in two or three weeks and all you want is that hug. I was certainly privy to the fact that we were being stalked as a family, that the atmosphere surrounding the house, the cars that would be parked, faces that were familiar to me once upon a time — their attitudes had changed.
February 14, 1965
Narrator: The night Malcolm returned from Europe, his family's home was firebombed. Asleep in the house were Malcolm, his pregnant wife, his four children. They escaped unharmed.
Alex Haley: And this was probably the thing that surfacely [sic] upset him most because this go underneath the image of Malcolm, the fearsome, the indomitable Malcolm X. This got to the father and the husband of Sister Betty and their daughters.
8th Reporter: He has told me in the past that he has been having some harassment. Could you give us an idea of some of the things that have happened?
Betty Shabazz: Well, in July when I was in the hospital having my last baby, my three small daughters saw my husband almost killed across the street.
8th Reporter: How was he almost killed?
Betty Shabazz: Well, some — he was in his car and some men were rushing to the side of his car, on both sides of it. And he managed to get away.
8th Reporter: Had you had any threats — anything like this?
Betty Shabazz: Had any threats? That's all I get is threats. I get not less than six or seven threatening phone calls everyday.
Philbert X: I was surprised to hear that the house had been bombed, but I was not surprised to know or — that it had been done by Muslims, because I know that's the way they fight. I know — be that the case, it could not have happened without Yusuf Shah, could not have happened. It could not have happened except by the Muslims that are there in New York.
Narrator: The Nation of Islam accused Malcolm of setting fire to his own home, rather than vacating, as ordered by the court. Later that day, the Nation's representative, Captain Joseph, inspected the scene.
Interviewer: Who bombed his house?
Yusuf Shah (Capt. Joseph X): I don't know. All we know, it just got on fire.
Interviewer: Does Malcolm know who bombed his house?
Yusuf Shah: I don't know. He never said, and if he did, you know, he should — should have brought them to justice.
Interviewer: There were news reports of threats against his life. Was his life really in danger?
Yusuf Shah: Maybe it was. He said it was. He said it was.
Interviewer: Do you feel now that there was a climate within the Nation itself that put his life in danger?
Yusuf Shah: Well, as you know, in the Nation, you have all kinds of people, and they have different thoughts. You have sympathizers. They'd have different thoughts, you know. And you have people, they're not even attached to the community that like what they hear but they just can't live the life. Anything might happen. That scare you. So anything could happen. The atmosphere was there. What was being aid was there. You see, you got to understand, you know, Mr. Muhammad and what he represented. That's what the people don't understand.
Malcolm X: I wanted you to know that my house was bombed. It was bombed by the Black Muslim movement upon the orders of Elijah Muhammad. Now, they had come around to — they had planned to do it from the front and the back so that I couldn't get out. And the fire hit the window and it woke up my second oldest baby. And then it — but the fire burned on the outside of the house. But had that fire — had that one gone through the window, it would have fallen on a six-year-old girl, a four-year-old girl and a two-year-old girl. And I'm going to tell you, if it had done it, I'd taken my rifle and gone after anybody in sight. I would not wait, 'cause in — and I said it because of this. The police know the criminal operation of the Black Muslim movement because they have thoroughly infiltrated.
The only thing that I regret in all of this is that two black groups have to fight and kill each other off. Elijah Muhammad could stop the whole thing tomorrow just by raising his hand. Really, he could. He could stop the whole thing by raising his hand, but he won't. He doesn't love black people. He doesn't even love his own followers, proof of which, they're killing each other. They killed one in the Bronx. They shot another one in the Bronx. They tried to get six of us Sunday morning and the pattern has developed across the country. The man has gone insane, absolutely out of his mind. Besides, you can't be 70 years old and surround yourself by a handful of 16-, 17-, 18-year-old girls and keep your right mind. You can't do it.
Gene Roberts, New York City Police Department: My name is Gene Roberts and I was assigned by the New York City Police Department to infiltrate Malcolm's organization, report back membership, names, weapons, if any. And I attended meetings and was part of the security on occasion.
And at this particular meeting, I was standing up front along with about four or five others guys, other members, and I heard a commotion in the middle to my right. I started for the commotion and I see this young fellow come down the middle aisle and then slip into about the second or third row and take a seat. And he was wearing a blue suit, a white shirt and red tie, which is basically the uniform for the members of the Nation of Islam.
So after the meeting, I reported back to the department that I felt I had just saw [sic] a dry run on Malcolm's life and when that was going to go down I wasn't sure.
Narrator: Malcolm did not expect to live another week. He promised to reveal the names of those plotting his death at next Sunday's meeting at the Audubon Ballroom.
Betty Shabazz: The night before, he had said he didn't think it would be a good idea for us to come to the Audubon, and then the next day, he called and said that we could come. And I was very happy, you know, that I could go because I had not seen him in 24 hours.
Attallah Shabazz: When my mother received the call from my father for us to all get together and come down to the Audubon, I knew that was different. That was a rhythm change by that time, with all of the things that were going on. And all the while, it was still an exciting venture to get ready and go see Daddy. And we go there — he was late, and we sat at a booth stage right, downstage right.
Gene Roberts: Malcolm came in and I escorted him from about the middle of the ballroom to the wings backstage. When I got there, I had noticed there were some people already present, and there was three people sitting on the first row. They were sitting there, reading newspapers. Nobody's paying them any mind. And Malcolm was still in the back. Benjamin Goodman came out and opened up the meeting.
Benjamin 2x: I opened up for him, and he had set down behind me and he said, "Make it plain." "Make it plain" is the code word that he used for us to bring him forward. So, anyway, I did. I brought Minister Malcolm forward. He didn't like a lot of icing — you know, "Here's Minister Malcolm, the great" and all that. He didn't like that — just plain, you know.
Gene Roberts: Then I heard a lot of shots and I looked up, and these three that was sitting across the front are now working their way from Malcolm's right to Malcolm's left, shooting at him.
Betty Shabazz: I saw my husband falling back — falling back. He didn't bend. He just fell straight back. And then I tried to — I forgot my children. I tried to get to him.
Attallah Shabazz: I was facing the assassins, so I saw them stand up and take my father's life — an image that — I wondered if I could have prevented it.
Sonia Sanchez: I was going to the Audubon that day, had gotten lazy and had said, simply, "Ah, I'll go next week," and so proceeded to go into the kitchen, put some coffee on, turn on the radio. In my little apartment there, I had a little black-and-white kitchen table with these little black chairs and had this little black radio on that table.
And I clicked the radio on, as I stood there, thinking about what had happened the night before. Turned towards the stove to pick up my coffee and a flash came through on this station and said Malcolm had been assassinated.
[weeping] And I froze. I remember turning in that kitchen and screaming.
John Henrik Clarke: I was in the home of a Jewish family, and they said very casually that, "Malcolm X has been assassinated."
[weeping] Then someone said, "After all he was anti-Semitic," and I took exception to this, knowing full well he was not. Then I excused myself and I went into the bathroom and cried for about 15 minutes.
Ella Collins: There nothing on earth would make me accept assassination, nothing. As far as I'm concerned, it may sound a bit weird, but he's alive, very much, and one day I'll get even. That's the way I go to bed every night.
Narrator: Three members of the Nation of Islam were arrested and convicted of the murder, but the question of a larger conspiracy to silence Malcolm X was never explored.
9th Reporter: Well, Malcolm X said that the Black Muslims were trying to kill him and he was going to name those he thought would commit the crime yesterday before he was shot. Could you comment on that?
Elijah Muhammad: I don't know — I don't have any knowledge of anyone trying to kill Malcolm.
Yusuf Shah (Capt. Joseph X): I wasn't remorseful, I wasn't sorry. For what? And as Mr. Muhammad said, he taught violence and died violently. And he was a hypocrite. And I say that he was a Benedict Arnold.
Narrator: The night before the funeral, the Nation of Islam held its annual Savior's Day convention in Chicago.
Philbert X: Well, I got the news that my brother Malcolm had been shot dead and I was shocked, but I know that he was traveling on a very reckless and dangerous course and if I was able to say I was not shocked, I would be telling a lie.
Wilfred X: But, brothers and sisters, I appreciate these few minutes of speaking to you. Brother Malcolm is dead and there's nothing we can do to bring him back.
Wilfred X: And we would be ignorant, with conditions as they are today for the so-called Negro, to get confused and go to fighting and arguing among ourselves—
Wilfred X: — and forget all about the one that caused us to be in this condition in the first place.
On the day of Malcolm's funeral, I was in the hotel room with my brother, and we were watching it, Philbert and I. And so we saw it on television. I didn't have — many thought I should have been there, but I had no intentions of being out there. When you knew the circumstances and the kind of people that you were dealing with, you had to do your own thinking. And there was no place for me at that time.
You don't know what kind of nut sitting around there, thinking that they're doing God's will and all this kind of stuff, and here's a member of his family. You don't know what they're liable to do, so for that reason, I wasn't there. And that's why I'm still here, I guess.
February 27, 1965
Ossie Davis: Of all the leaders that I knew and loved and admired and just walked with and walked behind, this one, as I said before, had been closest to me. I felt I was losing a son. So I thought that I would like my children and generations to come to know this most important aspect of Malcolm X, that he was indeed our manhood, you know, our shining black prince who didn't hesitate to die because he loved us so. I thought that, in honoring him, we honored the best in ourselves.
When the funeral was over and then the Muslims came and dressed him for proper Muslim burial. And after that we went out to the cemetery. When we got there, you know, the professional gravediggers were standing there with their shovels, but some of the black brothers said, "No, uh-uh. We can't let you do that. We dig this grave," you know, "We cover this brother with dirt." And I was proud, at that moment, to be black.
Peter Goldman: I don't think we ever got to be friends or ever could have. I think our respective skin colors and his view of this great division would have prevented that, but I think we did get to a — we moved from a relationship in which these encounters were interviews to a relationship in which they were conversations.
And even at my first encounter, I never felt — it's weird to say this, but I never took it personally. Even with my blue eyes and even with him talking about the "blue-eyed devil," I never took it personally. I knew I was part of the indicted group, but he had a way of making you feel comfortable, feel as if you were talking man to man.
Sharon 10x: I look at my watch or I show up late somewhere and I can hear Malcolm talking about not trusting a person who doesn't wear a watch and who is careless with time. And he first said that to me when I was 14 years old, and I hear it in my ear today like he's still there, saying it.
10th Reporter: Well, what is your ultimate aim?
Malcolm X: The only way the problem can be solved — first, the white man and the black man have to be able to sit down at the same table. The white man has to feel free to speak his mind without hurting the feelings of that Negro, and the so-called Negro has to feel free to speak his mind without hurting the feelings of the white man. Then they can bring the issues that are under the rug out on top of the table and take an intelligent approach to get the problem solved.
10th Reporter: Do you consider yourself militant?
Malcolm X: [laughing] I considered myself Malcolm.