Appeal to African Heads of State
Speech by Malcolm X
Chairman, Organization of Afro-American Unity
Throughout June, 1964, MALCOLM X spoke, agitated, educated and organized to create a new, non-religious movement to promote black unity and work for freedom “by any means necessary.” On June 28, this new movement was born under the name of the Organization of Afro-American Unit, its “statement of basic aims and objectives” was released to the public, and Malcolm was designated chairman.
Shortly thereafter, on July 9, Malcolm again left the United States for Africa and the Middle East. His immediate objective was to attend the “African Summit”—the second meeting of the Organization of African Unity, which had been formed in 1963 to bring about joint action by the independent African governments.
The OAU conference was held in Cairo July 17–21, and was attended by nearly all the heads of the thirty-four member states. The welcoming address was made by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of the United Arab Republic who, while reviewing the events of the previous year, hailed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that had recently been enacted in the United States.
Malcolm was accepted as an observer at the conference. In this capacity he was permitted to submit to the delegates an eight-page memorandum urging their support of the Negro struggle in the United States and their help in bring the plight of the American Negro before the United Nations. The memorandum, which follows, was delivered to the delegates on July 17, one day before the events that came to be called “the Harlem riots.”
The Organization of Afro-American Unity has sent me to attend this historic African summit conferences as an observer to represent the interests of 22 million African-American whose human rights are being violated daily by the racism of American imperialists.
The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) has been formed by a cross-section of America’s African-American community, and is patterned after the letter and spirit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
Just as the Organization of African Unity has called upon all African leaders to submerge their differences and unite on common objectives for the common good of all Africans—in America the Organization of Afro-American Unity has called upon Afro-American leaders to submerge their differences and find areas of agreement wherein we can work in unity for the good of the entire 22 million African-Americans.
Since the 22 million of us were originally Africans, who are now in America, not by choice but only by a cruel accident in our history, we strongly believe that African problems are our problems and our problems are African problems.
We also believe that as heads of the Independent African states you are the shepherd of all African peoples everywhere, whether they are still at home on the mother continent or have been scattered abroad.
Some African leaders at this conference have implied that they have enough problems here on the mother continent without adding the Afro-American problem.
With all due respect to your esteemed positions, I must remind all of you that the good shepherd will leave ninety-nine sheep, who are safe at home, to go to the aid of the one who is lost and has fallen into the clutches of the imperialist wolf.
We, in America, are your long-lost brothers and sisters, and I am here only to remind you that our problems are your problems. As the African-Americans “awaken” today, we find ourselves in a strange land that has rejected us, and, like the prodigal son, we are turning to our elder brothers for help. We pray our pleas will not fall upon deaf ears.
We were taken forcibly in chains from this mother continent and have now spend over 300 years in America, suffering the most inhuman forms of physical and psychological tortures imaginable.
During the past ten years the entire world has witnessed our men, women, and children being attacked and bitten by vicious police dogs, brutally beaten by police clubs, and washed down the sewers by high-pressure water hoses that would rip the clothes from our bodies and the flesh from our limbs.
And all of these inhuman atrocities have been inflicted upon us by the American governmental authorities, the police themselves, for no reason other than we seek the recognition and respect granted our human beings in America.
The American government is either unable or unwilling to protect the lives and property of your 22 million African-American brothers and sisters. We stand defenseless, at the mercy of American racists who murder us at will for no reason other than we are black and of African descent.
Two black bodies were found in the Mississippi River this week; last week an unarmed African-American educator was murdered in cold blood in Georgia; a few days before that three civil-rights workers disappeared completely, perhaps murdered also, only because they were teaching our people in Mississippi how to vote and how to secure their political rights.
Our problems are your problems We have lived for over 300 years in that American den of racist wolves in constant fear of losing life and limb. Recently, three students from Kenya were mistaken for American Negroes and were brutally beaten by New York police. Shortly after that, two diplomats from Uganda were also beaten by the New York City police, who mistook them for American Negroes.
If Africans are brutally beaten while only visiting in America, imagine the physical and psychological suffering received by your brothers and sisters who have lived there for over 300 years.
Our problem is your problem. No matter how much independence Africans get here on the mother continent, unless you wear your national dress at all times, when you visit America, you may be mistaken for one of us and suffer the same psychological humiliation and physical mutilation that is an everyday occurrence in our lives.
Your problems will never be fully solved until and unless ours are solved. You will never be fully respected until and unless we are also respected. You will never be recognized as free human beings until and unless we are also recognized and treated as human beings.
Our problem is your problem. It is not a Negro problem, nor an American problem. This is a world problem; a problem for humanity. It is not a problem of civil rights but a problem of human rights.
If the United States Supreme Court justice, Arthur Goldberg, a few weeks ago, could find legal grounds to threaten to bring Russia before the United Nations and charge her with violating the human rights of less than three million Russian Jews, what makes our African brothers hesitate to bring the Untied States government before the United Nations and charge her with violating the human rights of 22 million African-Americans?
We pray that our African brothers have not freed themselves of European colonialism only to be overcome and held in check now by American dollarism. Don’t let American racism be “legalized” by American dollarism.
America is worse than South Africa, because not only is America racist, but she also is deceitful and hypocritical. South Africa preaches segregation and practices segregation. She, at least, practices what she preaches. American preaches integration and practices segregation. She preaches one thing while deceitfully practicing another.
South Africa is like a vicious wolf, openly hostile towards black humanity. But America is cunning like a fox, friendly and smiling, but even more vicious and deadly than the wolf.
The wolf and the fox are both enemies of humanity; both are canine; both humiliate and mutilate their victims. Both have the same objectives, but differ only in methods.
If South Africa is guilty of violating the human rights of Africans here on the mother continent, then America is guilty of worse violations of 22 million Africans on the American continent. And if South Africa racism is not a domestic issue, then American racism also is not a domestic issue.
Many of you have been led to believe that the much publicized, recently passed civil-rights bill is a sign that America is making a sincere effort to correct the injustices we have suffered there. This propaganda maneuver is part of her deceit and trickery to keep the African nations from condemning her racist practices before the United Nations, as you are now doing as regards the same practices of South Africa.
The United States Supreme Court passed a law ten years ago making America’s segregated school system illegal. But the federal government has yet to enforce this law even in the North. If the federal government cannot enforce the law of the highest court in the land when it comes to nothing but equal rights to education for African Americans, how can anyone be so naïve as to think all the additional laws brought into being by the civil-rights bill will be enforced?
These are nothing but tricks of the century’s leading neo-colonialist power. Surely, our intellectually mature African brothers will not fall for this trickery.
The Organization of Afro-American Unity, in cooperation with a coalition of other Negro leaders and organizations, has decided to elevate our freedom struggle above the domestic level of civil rights. We intend to “internationalize” it by placing it at the level of human rights. Our freedom struggle for human dignity is no longer confined to the domestic jurisdiction of the United States government.
We beseech the independent African states to help us bring our problem before the United Nations, on the grounds that the United States government is morally incapable of protecting the lives and the property of 22 million African-Americans. And on the grounds that our deteriorating plight is definitely becoming a threat to world peace.
Out of frustration and hopelessness our young people have reached the point of no return. We no longer endorse patience and turning-the-other-cheek. We assert the right of self-defense by whatever means necessary, and reserve the right of maximum retaliation against our racist oppressors, no matter what the odds against us are.
From here on in, if we must die anyway, we will die fighting back and we will not die alone. We intend to see that our racist oppressors also get a taste of death.
We are well aware that our future efforts to defend ourselves by retaliating—by meeting violence with violence, eye for eye and tooth for tooth—could create the type of racial conflict in America that could easily escalate into a violent, world-wide, bloody race war.
In the interests of world peace and security, we beseech the heads of the independent African states to recommend an immediate investigation into our problem by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
If this humble plea that I am voicing at this conference is not properly worded, then let our elder brothers, who know the legal language, come to our aid and word our plea in the proper language necessary for it to be heard.
One last word, my beloved brothers at this African summit:
“No one knows the master better than his servant.” We have been servants in America for over 300 years. We have a thorough, inside knowledge of this man who calls himself “Uncle Sam.” Therefore, you must heed our warning: Don’t escape from European colonialism only to become even more enslaved by deceitful, “friendly” American dollarism.
May Allah’s blessings of good health and wisdom be upon you all. Salaam Alaikum.
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Malcolm X Speaks • George Breitman, editor • © Copyright 1965 by Merit Publishers and Betty Shabazz • Grove Press • New York, NY 10003 Remembering Malcolm Malcolm X Videos
posted 21 February 2006
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Feb. 21, 2006–41 years ago
Malcolm X was gunned down at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem
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Spectres of 1919: Class and Nation in the Making of the New Negro
By Barbara Foley
A carefully argued, nuanced presentation of the genesis of the Harlem Renaissance. Foley’s breadth of knowledge in American radical history is impressive.—American Literature
Foley’s book is a lucid and useful one… A heavyweight intervention, it prompts significant rethinking of the ideological and representational strategies structuring the era.—Journal of American Studies
Foley does a masterful job of analyzing the racial and political theories of a wide range of black and white figures, from the radical Left to the racist Right… Students of African American political and cultural history in the early twentieth century cannot ignore this book. Essential.—Choice
In our current time of crisis, when ruling classes busily promote nationalism and racism to conceal the class nature of their inter-imperialist rivalries, one can only hope that readers will not be daunted by Foley’s dedication to analyzing the ideological milieu of the 1920s that contributed to the eclipse of New Negro radicalism by New Negro nationalism.—Science & Society
With the New Negro movement and the Harlem Renaissance, the 1920s was a landmark decade in African American political and cultural history, characterized by an upsurge in racial awareness and artistic creativity. In Spectres of 1919 Barbara Foley traces the origins of this revolutionary era to the turbulent year 1919, identifying the events and trends in American society that spurred the black community to action and examining the forms that action took as it evolved.
Unlike prior studies of the Harlem Renaissance, which see 1919 as significant mostly because of the geographic migrations of blacks to the North, Spectres of 1919 looks at that year as the political crucible from which the radicalism of the 1920s emerged. Foley draws from a wealth of primary sources, taking a bold new approach to the origins of African American radicalism and adding nuance and complexity to the understanding of a fascinating and vibrant era.—amazon.com
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