Breaking the Ideology of Separation Versus Integration: Part 5 – Dr. King and the Mainstream Civil Rights Movement Versus Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam


The last part was on W.E.B. Du Bois and the N.A.A.C.P. Transitioning to the next era, by the 1960s, two major movements were established in the black community: the mainstream civil rights movement, which is traditionally associated with integration; and groups like the Nation of Islam associated with advocating separation. Looking back, Malcolm X and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., are seen as the two leaders of these respective movements.

As with the last part, this one should be relatively simple. The last was straightforward due to its extensive documentation available though the articles and postscripts that were done by Du Bois in The Crisis, as well as the letters and other events and statements. This one, in comparison, is uncomplicated because of how well documented the events of the era are in terms of how the lives of Malcolm X and Dr. King have been extensively and frequently covered by a complete range of sources and perspectives. I will, therefore, refrain from spending too much time teaching and documenting the history. I will spend more of my time on the ideas.

These two movements developed out of two of the previously discussed camps. The discussion in this series culminates nicely if you have taken the time to read all parts in this series and also check out and utilize the provided links for more detail and direct information. The Nation of Islam was born, in large part, out of the line of Marcus Garvey. The mainstream civil rights movement is born, mostly, out of the same ideas the N.A.A.C.P. had in relation to Du Bois in the previous part.

Muslim Cults (Background)

The Nation of Islam in several interpretations, specifically with regard to their ideas rather than their exact founding, can be traced to both Marcus Garvey’s movement and that of the Moorish/Muslim Temples and Noble Drew Ali.

There were several mysterious disappearances, deaths, strange events, and coming and going of leaders surrounding these movements. First would be the deportation of Marcus Garvey and the surrounding suspicion and deaths discussed in Part 3; Hubert Harrison would, also, die on December 17, 1927 (that was not mentioned in that part, and even if no foul play is expected, it still represents the loss of a great leader). Some speculation has, also, been given to the connection between Noble Drew Ali and Garvey, as well as Dusé Mohamed Ali’s connection to the overall influence of the Muslim movement that developed in the U.S.

Looking at the history of the various movements from the perspective of a Muslim origin can be a mistake. The true root and connection between all of these movements – including Garvey, the NOI, and the Moors, etc. – is Freemasonry or other esoteric and occult, secret societies, such as Rosicrucians, Shriners, etc. Garvey was connected via his family history and connections in Jamaica and also through Dusé Mohamed Ali (in England) and John Edward Bruce (in the U.S.). Those latter individuals are both mentioned in the part discussing Garvey, and it is interesting to note, out of all the individuals that had a problem with Garvey, they are the ones who were able to maintain the relationship and build, while the others remained vehemently opposed to Garvey, his motivations, and his character.

Although Masonic and other groups go back further in U.S. history, in terms of groups connected to both black and white Americans, starting with the Moorish movement that can be connected to Noble Drew Ali and later Wallace Fard Muhammad, it can be traced to around 1913 with the Canaanite Temple in Newark, New Jersey. The same role was still being played by the Great Northward Migration, seeing a large number of blacks relocating to Northern U.S. cities from the Southern U.S. – that was in addition to individuals relocating from around the world. Especially for the blacks relocating, their disillusionment created a motivation for seeking solutions in the form of leaders from Garvey to Drew Ali and other leaders.

Abdul Hamid Suleiman is often cited as the founder of the Newark New Jersey temple in addition to being a Freemason who also founded the Ancient Mecca-Medina of Ancient Free and Operative Masons in various cities. Noble Drew Ali (Timothy Drew) was in New Jersey around the same time the Canaanite Temple was founded. It is sometimes claimed that Noble Drew Ali had a connection to a temple either as starting one himself, taking over, being a member, etc. Noble Drew Ali, however, would have the most impact in 1926 with the establishment of a Moorish Temple in Chicago – here with the Circle 7 Koran, Drew Ali also incorporates ideas from The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ (1908) by esoteric preacher Levi Dowling and Unto Thee I Grant, which is a Rosicrucian work. Drew Ali, like Marcus Garvey, as well as Suleiman, was utilizing Masonic teachings within his organizational structure, symbols, and messaging. Although, in the case of Drew Ali, in contrast to Garvey, there was more of an effort to provide access to the ideas, e.g., as in the Circle 7 Koran, and teaching them, as opposed to just seeing related ideas pop up in speeches and otherwise. The comparison with Garvey, that continues with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, is in that use of those symbols and ideas, even with the differences in how they are presented. There especially similarity with building a following around one individual, and that is even with the contrast happening with regard to the use of more religious elements within the ideological structure.

The Moorish Temple is where Wallace Fard Muhammad – as is claimed by some – came into contact with the movement and ideas as a potential member of that temple. This is also an area of some mystery, as not much is known with absolute certainty when it comes to Fard Muhammad. That same mystery exists with Drew Ali or any of these types of figures. The Nation of Islam was also associated with different names including the word ‘temple’. That is another commonality with Masonic groups, who also have temples. It is also claimed that, at one point, after the death of Noble Drew Ali, Wallace Fard Muhammad claimed to be Drew Ali. Wallace Fard Muhammad would start in Detroit and grow a following that would become the Nation of Islam. This movement would then be taken over by Elijah Muhammad following the disappearance of Fard Muhammad.

There is a very strange and convoluted history surrounding these movements. As far as the departures and deaths, it looks as if Suleiman got involved in legal trouble. Noble Drew Ali was jailed in connection with the murder of Claude Green-Bey who apparently was involved in a split within the movement. Upon release, Drew Ali was beaten. He was said to have died on July 20, 1929, of tuberculosis, although questions still remain regarding the death and surrounding circumstances (potentially an assassination). Wallace Fard Muhammad disappears. The founding of the Nation of Islam was in 1930, which was following the death of Drew Ali. Around this time, in 1932, there was a case/cases of human sacrifice and alleged sacrifice. It can be noted, here, that the Nation of Islam, by law enforcement, was often known as a cult by various names, such as Muslim Cult and Voodoo Cult. Robert Harris was ultimately blamed and held as insane; however, Wallace Fard Muhammad was also under observation as the leader at the time.

After the disappearance of Wallace Fard, Elijah Muhammad would take over as the leader and would remain the leader until his death.

Malcolm X, becoming acquainted with the Nation Islam while in prison, would eventually become a leading minister and public personality, leading both the rise in popularity and pushing the ideological agenda of the Nation of Islam.

Mainstream Civil Rights (Background)

As with the start of the era of Jim Crow and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Civil Rights Movement can be symbolically seen as starting with a Supreme Court case: Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

I want to avoid, as mentioned earlier, going into a lot of the details that are widely discussed both in mainstream and in other extensively researched areas and works. So, here, I will just start by overviewing the Big Six civil rights activists and groups, and I’m going to go directly into the next section discussing the differences in ideas, motivations of the movements, and given the context of the deaths of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, I will discuss the implications of actions at that time and moving forward from that time until today.

In the section on Du Bois vs. the N.A.A.C.P., and at other points in the series that discuss the N.A.A.C.P., the main development regarding the mainstream civil rights movement can be seen. It can also be seen, in part, with the development of McCarthyism and targeting of black leaders based on their actual or supposed communist beliefs. This was the context of the movement.

Several leaders developed and were the head of organizations. These leaders and organizations included Roy Wilkins with the N.A.A.C.P., Whitney Young with the Urban League, and James Farmer with the Congress of Racial Equality. There was also A. Philip Randolf, who transitioned from his more radical positions during the times of Garvey and the Harlem Renaissance period, that saw him leading the Messager with Chandler Owen. In addition to the rest, John Lewis with Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee, and Martin Luther King, Jr., made up what was called the Big Six. Some of the groups and individuals involved in the mainstream movement for civil rights, like Martin Luther King, Jr., were connected with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Most notably, there were individuals like Ralph Abernathy and Bayard Rustin who would play a role in shaping ideas and movements, such as Rustin with the general stance of nonviolence and the March on Washington and Abernathy later in King’s life taking over as head of the S.C.L.C. and Poor People’s Campaign upon King’s assassination.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was at the time – and continues to be – recognized as the public leader; however, it must be noted that the ideas and influence were coming from other places. The other individuals mentioned above played a significant role in controlling, and to a large extent limiting, the ideas.

Together these groups and individuals primarily led with a message of nonviolence and working cooperatively with particularly the political apparatus of the federal government. They started pushing legislation over which they had little to no control in terms of enforcement. There was also no control over carrying out any related agenda that could have an influence on wide social change, as was later recognized upon reviewing some of the failures of initial campaigns, which although impacting Southern Jim Crow, overall failed to fundamentally fix the issues. There was also concern seeing the difficulty and negative reaction against subsequent efforts.

The Contention

With this being the last contention to be discussed in this series, it should be completely evident, at this point, that a false dilemma was created with regard to positions taken. By the end of their lives, both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X would evolve their positions.

Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam

Starting with the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X himself deals with the problems of the Nation of Islam in his interview with Stan Bernard just a few days before he was assassinated. Aubrey Barnette, also a part of the interview, called out the Nation of Islam for being a fraudulent organization, saying “the entire Black Muslim movement is a fraud” and that “any similarity between the Black Muslims and the true religion of Islam is purely coincidental.” Malcolm X elaborated as follows:

“What he’s saying is true, especially about the first, especially about the religion. The religion of Islam itself is a religion that is based upon brotherhood and a religion in which the persons who believe in it in no way judge a man by the color of his skin. The yardstick of measurement in Islam is one’s deeds, one’s conscious behavior. And the yardstick of measurement that was used by Elijah Muhammad was based upon the color of the skin.”

Similarly to Garvey, and as was shown above, there was an antagonism created against white Americans. A correct position and negative sentiment with regard to the frustration of trying getting things done against the level of racism and prevalent ideology of white supremacy in America was used to exploit followers and pull people in the wrong direction as far as a movement for the advancement of the black community goes.

Malcolm mentions that briefly, after returning from Africa, he was going to do a lot more to expose the Nation of Islam, but he later decided to focus more on his own work than on attacking Elijah Muhammad. He, however, continued to question the Nation of Islam as a religious movement.

“…you must understand that the Black Muslim movement, although it claimed to be a religious movement, based upon Islam, it was never acceptable to the orthodox Muslim world. Although at the same time it attracted the most militant, the most dissatisfied of the Black community into it. And by them getting into it and the movement itself not having a real action program, it comprised a number of persons who were extremely young and militant but who could not…and who were activists by nature but who couldn’t participate in things. So the inactivity of the movement caused a great deal of dissatisfaction until finally dissension broke in and division, and those of us who left regrouped into a Muslim movement based upon orthodox Islam.

If you recall, when I was in Mecca I wrote a letter back saying that when I returned to America I wouldn’t rest until I exposed Elijah Muhammad as the religious faker that he was. I was 100 percent sincere in saying that. But when I returned, one of the reasons that I’ve avoided, that I initially avoided any kind of discussion or talk about Elijah Muhammad and the Black Muslim movement…after leaving Mecca, rather before going to Mecca, I had an hour and a half conversation with President Nasser in Egypt. After leaving Mecca I spent three hours with President Julius Nyerere in what was then Tanganyika, is now Tanzania. I spent a couple days with President Jomo Kenyatta and Prime Minister Milton Obote of Uganda, and also President Azikiwe in Nigeria, President Nkrumah in Ghana, President Sekou Toure in Guinea. And I had an opportunity to discuss the problem of Black people on the African continent, plus the plight of our people in this country. And I won’t hesitate to say that conversations with these men broadened my scope tremendously, beyond what it was before I went over there. And I felt, when I came back that many things that I had learned would be constructive, or could be used constructively by Black people in this country in our struggle for human dignity. And I felt that I would be wasting my time entering into some kind of dispute with Elijah Muhammad and his followers. And so I spent my time, when I first came back here, trying to get the Organization of Afro-American Unity consolidated, plus the Muslim Mosque, which is based upon orthodox Islam.”

Malcolm would go on to question the conspiracy and coordination happening between the media, law enforcement/intelligence, and Elijah Muhammad, as to the bombing of his house, which took place just a few days prior. This was also with reference to and within the context of the entire situation surrounding Malcolm, the N.O.I., and the situation between his ideas and them being a threat to the dominant society.

“…because we were charging a conspiracy on the part of some firemen, some policemen, and some newsmen to work together to cover up the part played by Elijah’s followers in the bombing and to give the public the impression that I bombed it myself, by withholding valuable information from the public and telling half-truths through the press. We demanded the FBI investigation..”

It is clear that the Nation of Islam was not operating as a political and revolutionary group but willingly or unwittingly (however you want to view things) as a movement of controlled opposition. This is clear from the actions of the group, the understanding of official positions, and the support of Malcolm’s own words. Also, there is a clear indication that a substantial or at least a significant amount of individuals involved with the Nation of Islam were involved either as inherently nefarious and cooperating assets or as infiltrators, outside influences and outside forces, that were working with (or in the interests of) U.S. intelligence, local police, the F.B.I., etc.

As mentioned above, aspects that were taken over from the Garvey movement included anti-white rhetoric that was later rejected by Malcolm. The aspects differing in the N.O.I.’s operating with a religious front still maintained the militancy and organizational structure of the Garvey movement. It also shared being a movement that was seemingly only successful at threatening the lives of their own members. As mentioned previously, the religious structure of the N.O.I. was filled with ideas that were not in line with orthodox Islam but adherent to the Masonic symbolism and potentially esoteric teachings and references, as well as other personal and political beliefs. This, even today, can be seen, and with and understanding of the history of the group, the relationship and connection made with Scientology should be of no surprise.

It is particularly interesting – specifically relating to Du Bois’s agenda outlined in Part 4 – to see the program of the Nation of Islam. There are similarities in the outreach particularly to the youth and radical and in them having a moral and economic agenda. This would be similar to Garvey if not for the disconnect with Africa. The religious and cult aspect that surrounded the Nation of Islam, in addition, fixed the issue Garvey had with his organizational objectives coming into confrontation with ambitious and radical communist and socialist leaders of that time period who were interested in moving in a politically oriented direction that questioned and challenged leadership. The religious and cult aspects of the N.O.I. both created an off-putting distance between those left-leaning elements who often opposed religious institutions while creating a reverence for Elijah Muhammad as a prophet.

With regard to the economic operations, as with Garvey, there were issues. In the Stan Bernard interview, this topic was also discussed with Barnette saying he was disappointed and disillusioned thinking that “Elijah Muhammad had invented a great communal system where the people…could get together and build businesses that would employ, give employment…to all Negroes who needed jobs” only to find out that “these are businesses that Negroes had been establishing all across the country without inventing any new communal system.” Malcolm went further saying the following:

“…what he’s saying is true, but I think I can shed a little clearer light on it. The businesses that the Muslim movement had established from coast to coast, all of them operated in the red. There was only one business in the entire Muslim movement that operated in the black and that was the restaurant there on 116th Street, right here in New York. In fact, the only businesses, the only Muslims in business, who operated businesses in the black were the Muslims in the New York area. And one of the bones of contention that developed between the factions in the Black Muslim movement was the jealousy that developed in Chicago toward the New York Muslims because they were more successful than the ones there in Chicago.

In some, in part. I think there are instances where…one thing the Muslim movement did do, persons who never thought in terms of business; they were taught so much business, so much talk about business was stressed that many who didn’t have any business knowledge at all would become involved in a business venture. And then that venture would fold, which actually was worse for the movement than it was good for the movement. But I want to point out that the businesses in Chicago, as Elijah Muhammad has told me from his own mouth, were such a failure that he subsidized them himself. He used to run those businesses with money out of his own pocket, so that they would serve as a front. And he always pointed out that the…none of his…especially his sons and those around him, had any business ability, and it developed within them a lot of envy and jealousy toward the New York Muslims, because the most successful businessmen among the Muslims were those right here in the New York area.”

An additional point of emphasis is on one of the main topics of this series, which is on the issue of separations. It can be noted, as mentioned by Malcolm that the position of separation was rather farcical with regard to the Nation of Islam. It stood more to cover for a lack of an agenda and political influence than it did at actually laying out an alternative pathway for black Americans.

“I must say this concerning what Elijah Muhammad said about separation. He didn’t espouse separation. What he said was this: that the government should…if the government can’t give complete equality right now, then the government should permit Black people to go back to Africa. He didn’t ever say back to Africa. Elijah Muhammad has never made one statement that’s pro-African. And he has never, in any of his speeches, or written or oral, said anything to his followers about Africa.

He was as anti-African as he was anti-white.

…what he said was, ‘We should go back to our own.’ And he phrased it like that, because if he spelled it out, he would have to point to some geographic area, and he would have to have the consent of the people in that geographic area, which he knew he couldn’t get. So he just kept it elusive and said, ‘Let’s go back to our own.’ And if the government wouldn’t let us go back to our own, then he said separation should set up right here. But at no time did he ever enter into any kind of activity or action that was designed to bring any of this into existence. And it was this lack of action that led many of the activists within the movement to become disillusioned and dissatisfied and eventually leave it.”

Malcolm X would add that there was a threat behind what he was doing, specifically in comparison to the Nation of Islam. He referenced, as mentioned above, how the violence and active agenda of the N.O.I. only seemed to be focused in a negative direction.

“The press is more frightened of the Black nationalists than of the Black Muslims. And if you doubt it, all you have to do is pick up any story written, that involves Black Muslims and Black nationalists, and you’ll always find the press slants it skillfully in favor of the Black Muslims, despite the fact that the Black Muslim movement teaches that every white individual that comes into the world is a devil by nature, by nature. And the Black nationalists don’t do that. The Black nationalists judge people by their behavior, by their deeds, not by their color. But still the press knows that the Black Muslim movement is a hybrid, a hybrid, political and religious hybrid that will ever do anything against the Ku Klux Klan or against the organized white elements in this society that are brutalizing Black people. But that same Black Muslim movement will give the order for Black people within it to murder and cripple other black people in the community. The Black Muslim movement has never at any time been involved in any kind of strike against the Ku Klux Klan or the Citizens’ Council. Even in the South or the North. But they give the orders to fight each other. When the brother was killed in Los Angeles, no order was given. In fact, the brothers who wanted to go into action were restrained many of them right here in New York, by little fat Joseph were restrained. But that same Joseph gives his crew orders to go out and cripple other Black persons who have left the movement through dissatisfaction over what they’ve learned.”

Malcolm X would start outlining a political agenda outside of the Nation of Islam in 1964-1965, directly leading to his assassination. This would include pulling closer to individuals like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer. Although he would not get as close as he liked to the mainstream movement, only briefly meeting King once, his evolving politics were at the same time becoming more revolutionary and radical, while also moving toward a wider audience and mainstream conversation.

It is worth discussing the issue created between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad (and the N.O.I.) surrounding Elijah Muhammad having children out of wedlock with several young girls, which is often mentioned, particularly within the context of the reasoning behind Malcolm’s suspension, issues with the N.O.I., and most specifically him being forced out of the Nation of Islam. This is not a big emphasis in the discussion I am presenting here; however, it is such a big issue within the context of the situation, it must be covered, even if just briefly. It was this issue that even Malcolm mentions as a primary influence leading to the suspension for which as Malcolm says the Kennedy situation mentioned below was only a pretext. This whole chain of events especially played a significant role in Malcolm’s assassination, as is evident from Malcolm’s own discussion of the issue in the interview linked above. As is also pointed out by Malcolm, however, there was a bigger issue with the concern of Malcolm’s ideas, especially as he shifted toward trying to enter and collaborate with the mainstream movement for civil rights.

Another important side note is the Kennedy assassination. The March on Washington, which is referenced in this part, was on August 28, 1963. It can be noted, also, that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as the name indicates was not enacted until July 2, 1964. The effort on the part of the mainstream movement for civil rights to get things done by working within mainstream politics has to be viewed in connection to this fact. Kennedy would be assassinated on November 22, 1963. With a modern understanding of what went on with the Kennedy assassination, it has to be understood as far as the real control behind the situation. That also has to be understood with the context of subsequent events including the assassinations of Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many more surrounding the movement for civil rights, black liberation, and human rights. This is against a lot of what Malcolm was calling out with the mainstream, which saw leaders such as John Lewis and Jessie Jackson continue with their lives, including in politics and mainstream affairs, while the fundamental goals of civil rights and black liberation were never achieved. This is also in contrast to individuals like Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph or any others who lived without experiencing the level of targeting of individuals like Du Bois and Paul Roberson, as examples, but especially not of the younger generation who were imprisoned and killed. Some like Rustin, as is shown in an interview he did for Eyes on the Prize, continued his position of working with “politics” and objecting to what he called “protest movements” rejecting nonviolence. Rustin, for example, mentioning the success of the nonviolent movement against violent tactics within the context of Martin Luther King, Jr., the leader of nonviolence, being one of the major assassinations. Or, another example, being him arguing for a failure of the “protest movement” given the exiling, imprisoning, and assassinating, of the leaders of those movements. This contradictory and almost nonsensical analysis has to be drawn into question, especially given his comments on Kennedy and Johnson, for example, given, again, what we know.

Malcolm X’s political evolution and outline of a program would start with his speech The Ballot or the Bullet, in April of 1964, after leaving the Nation of Islam in March. Malcolm X, in a similar way to Du Bois, was being censored in his speech and platform to discuss issues openly. He was put on an indefinite suspension following his “chickens coming home to roost” comments when questioned about the Kennedy assassination. In the Ballot or Bullet speech, he would lay out a plan for black nationalism. He stated that: “[t]he political philosophy of black nationalism means that the black man should control the politics and the politicians in his own community”; “[t]he economic philosophy of black nationalism is pure and simple. It only means that we should control the economy of our community”; “[t]he social philosophy of black nationalism only means that we have to get together and remove the evils, the vices, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other evils that are destroying the moral fiber of our community.”

In outlining his full agenda for the black community there are parallels with what Du Bois did earlier, with certain elements specific to the context of the era. Malcolm outlined an economic and social agenda based on education, black pride, and unity, as well as arranging both politically and economically for control and self-interested planning and organization. In addition, he remained opposed to the nonviolent and compromising tactics of the mainstream civil rights movement. This was, as well, the growing sentiment of the youth surrounding the movement that would eventually grow into the Black Power movement, e.g, with Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown subsequently leading S.N.C.C. after John Lewis and with the Black Panther/Black Liberation movement that developed following the death of Malcolm X. This was already a contention that existed with an often ignored historical figure in the struggle for black liberation: Robert F. Williams. Williams was the head of the Monroe, North Carolina chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. who wrote the book Negroes with Guns. Williams eventually would have to go into exile from the U.S. from to both Cuba and China starting in 1961, not returning until 1969 but still facing charges that would later be dropped. Williams would provide a huge influence for that entire generation of people but especially those having an opposition to the nonviolent aspects of the mainstream movement.

Also, in April 1964, Malcolm would travel across the world including trips to Europe, Mecca, and Africa. This was following him leaving the Nation of Islam and establishing his position on black nationalism. Upon returning, his ideology was further developed, also in line with Du Bois and others, with a focus on pan-Africanism and international human rights. This can especially be seen as becoming more established in speeches such as Not Just an American Problem, But a World Problem, which contained topics reiterated in a lot of the speeches given later in his life. There was an emphasis on human rights, over just a focus on civil rights. Another key point was the focus on international pressure, collaboration and influence from other nations, the United Nations, and international law.

“And the motto of the Organization of Afro-American I Unity is By Any Means Necessary. We don’t believe in fighting a battle that’s going to—in which the ground rules are to be laid down by those who suppress us. We don’t believe that we can win in a battle where the ground rules are laid down by those who exploit us. We don’t believe that we can carry on a struggle trying to win the affection of those who for so long have oppressed and exploited us.

We believe that our fight is just. We believe that our grievances are just. We believe that the evil practices against Black people in this society are criminal and that those who engage in such criminal practices are to be looked upon themselves as nothing but criminals. And we believe that we are within our rights to fight those criminals by any means necessary. This doesn’t mean that we’re for violence. But we do—we have seen that the federal government has shown its inability, its absolute unwillingness, to protect the lives and the property of Black people. We have seen where organized white racists, Klansmen, Citizens’ Councilmen, and others can come into the Black community and take a Black man and make him disappear and nothing be done about it.

So one of the first steps that we became involved in, those of us who got into the Organization of Afro American Unity, was to come up with a program that would make our grievances international and make the world see that our problem was no longer a Negro problem or an American problem but a human problem. A problem for humanity and a problem which should be attacked by all elements of humanity. A problem that was so complex that it was impossible for Uncle Sam to solve it himself and therefore we want to get into a body or conference with people who are in such positions that they can help us get some kind of adjustment for this situation before it gets so explosive that no one can handle it.”

Malcolm’s views would have the backing of an international legal framework, such as with what the Human Rights Council points to in the following as a guideline for international action: “from the travaux préparatoires of the 1503 procedure, it appears that the term ‘patterns of gross violations’ were considered as those that were so severe that they could ‘no longer [be] regarded as falling exclusively within the domestic jurisdiction of States.'” As well, from the same, it mentions “violations of civil and political and economic, social and cultural rights, occurring in any part of the world and under any circumstances…” such as “Apartheid”, involving “several victims, and a certain number of breaches spread over a minimum period of time, which are particularly inhuman or degrading…”. Even going further than basic self-defense, there would also be backing. Usually with the Palestinian struggle, as well as others, in mind, the U.N. upholds “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial domination, apartheid and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.”

Malcolm X would be assassinated on February 21, 1965, just a few days after the Stan Bernard interview on the 18th. That was following the firebombing of his house and multiple other attempts on his life. He was being tracked across the world by U.S. intelligence, local police, and F.B.I., including a visit from the F.B.I. to encourage him to flip. His organization – the Organization for Afro-American Unity – and his agenda would die but also in a way reemerge as the mentioned Black Power/Black Liberation movements including the Black Panthers, who also reincorporated the communist/socialist elements of W.E.B. Du Bois. The Panthers and other groups and individuals, however, would also be heavily targeted and with the full focus of police and intelligence in the U.S. most of the major leaders/members would be assassinated, exiled, or imprisoned. Activists today following in the footsteps of these groups remain under heavy targeting. Some still remain in prison as political prisoners. This is in spite of the fact that the COINTELPRO papers were discovered and exposed, and even with additional operations being discovered and exposed otherwise, such as in the Church Committee, presenting a massive reevaluation of the programs and agencies, a lot of which were operating in a way that was highly illegal and taking actions in extreme violation of civil and political as well as human rights and liberties.

The last note to be made, here, on the Nation of Islam is with regard to the history of the N.O.I. after Malcolm and specifically after the death of Elijah Muhammad. There were huge issues with the investigation into the assassination of Malcolm X or any potential criminal activity of Nation of Islam leadership or connection with police and intelligence in the U.S. There was also the subsequent takeover, following the death of Elijah Muhammad, which saw Loius Farrakhan take over the N.O.I. in a different direction from Warith Deen Mohammed‘s attempt to take it to less anti-white and more orthodox Islamic beliefs.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and The Mainstream Civil Rights Movement

Moving on, it was also Malcolm, both within and outside of the Nation of Islam, who was very critical of the mainstream civil rights movement. Malcolm’s critique would follow similarly to how W.E.B. Du Bois would critique the black elite during earlier times.

In Message to the Grassroots (1963), he called out the Big Six:

“It was the grassroots out there in the street. Scared the white man to death, scared the white power structure in Washington, D. C. to death; I was there. When they found out that this black steamroller was going to come down on the capital, they called in Wilkins; they called in Randolph; they called in these national Negro leaders that you respect and told them, ‘Call it off.’ Kennedy said, ‘Look, you all letting this thing go too far.’ And Old Tom said, ‘Boss, I can’t stop it, because I didn’t start it.’ I’m telling you what they said. They said, ‘I’m not even in it, much less at the head of it.’ They said, ‘These Negroes are doing things on their own. They’re running ahead of us.’ And that old shrewd fox, he said, ‘Well If you all aren’t in it, I’ll put you in it. I’ll put you at the head of it. I’ll endorse it. I’ll welcome it. I’ll help it. I’ll join it.’

A matter of hours went by. They had a meeting at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City. The Carlyle Hotel is owned by the Kennedy family; that’s the hotel Kennedy spent the night at, two nights ago; it belongs to his family. A philanthropic society headed by a white man named Stephen Currier called all the top civil-rights leaders together at the Carlyle Hotel. And he told them that, ‘By you all fighting each other, you are destroying the civil-rights movement. And since you’re fighting over money from white liberals, let us set up what is known as the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership. Let’s form this council, and all the civil-rights organizations will belong to it, and we’ll use it for fund-raising purposes.’ Let me show you how tricky the white man is. And as soon as they got it formed, they elected Whitney Young as the chairman, and who you think became the co-chairman? Stephen Currier, the white man, a millionaire. Powell was talking about it down at the Cobo [Hall] today. This is what he was talking about. Powell knows it happened. Randolph knows it happened. Wilkins knows it happened. King knows it happened. Everyone of that so-called Big Six, they know what happened.

Once they formed it, with the white man over it, he promised them and gave them $800,000 to split up between the Big Six; and told them that after the march was over they’d give them $700,000 more. A million and a half dollars, split up between leaders that you’ve been following, going to jail for, crying crocodile tears for. And they’re nothing but Frank James and Jesse James and the what-do-you-call-’em brothers.

Soon as they got the setup organized, the white man made available to them top public relations experts; opened the news media across the country at their disposal; and then they begin to project these Big Six as the leaders of the march. Originally, they weren’t even in the march. You was talking this march talk on Hastings Street—is Hastings Street still here?—on Hasting Street. You was talking the march talk on Lenox Avenue, and out on—what you call it?—Fillmore Street, and Central Avenue, and 32nd Street and 63rd Street. That’s where the march talk was being talked. But the white man put the Big Six at the head of it; made them the march. They became the march. They took it over. And the first move they made after they took it over, they invited Walter Reuther, a white man; they invited a priest, a rabbi, and an old white preacher. Yes, an old white preacher. The same white element that put Kennedy in power—labor, the Catholics, the Jews, and liberal Protestants; the same clique that put Kennedy in power, joined the march on Washington.

It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What you do? You integrate it with cream; you make it weak. If you pour too much cream in, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it’ll put you to sleep. This is what they did with the march on Washington. They joined it. They didn’t integrate it; they infiltrated it. They joined it, became a part of it, took it over. And as they took it over, it lost its militancy. They ceased to be angry. They ceased to be hot. They ceased to be uncompromising. Why, it even ceased to be a march. It became a picnic, a circus. Nothing but a circus, with clowns and all. You had one right here in Detroit—I saw it on television—with clowns leading it, white clowns and black clowns. I know you don’t like what I’m saying, but I’m going to tell you anyway. ’Cause I can prove what I’m saying. If you think I’m telling you wrong, you bring me Martin Luther King and A. Philip Randolph and James Farmer and those other three, and see if they’ll deny it over a microphone.

No, it was a sellout. It was a takeover. When James Baldwin came in from Paris, they wouldn’t let him talk, ’cause they couldn’t make him go by the script. Burt Lancaster read the speech that Baldwin was supposed to make; they wouldn’t let Baldwin get up there, ’cause they know Baldwin’s liable to say anything. They controlled it so tight—they told those Negroes what time to hit town, how to come, where to stop, what signs to carry, what song to sing, what speech they could make, and what speech they couldn’t make; and then told them to get out of town by sundown. And every one of those Toms was out of town by sundown. Now I know you don’t like my saying this. But I can back it up. It was a circus, a performance that beat anything Hollywood could ever do, the performance of the year. Reuther and those other three devils should get an Academy Award for the best actors ’cause they acted like they really loved Negroes and fooled a whole lot of Negroes. And the six Negro leaders should get an award too, for the best supporting cast.”

He continued that same critique in Not Just an American Problem (1965), in which he also points out what can be properly understood as the full range of controlled opposition that happened within the context of the contention between the mainstream movement and the Nation of Islam. This was represented as a part of the entire emphasis on separation and integration. This, I hope, can be seen throughout this series as a major point, as with putting Booker T. Washington over the black community, setting up the N.A.A.C.P., and in what was done (intentionally or not) by Garvey.

“This tokenism, this tokenism was a program that was designed to protect the benefits of only a handful of handpicked Negroes. And these handpicked Negroes were given big positions, and then they were used to open up their mouths to tell the world, “Look at how much progress we’re making.” He should say, look at how much progress he is making. For while these handpicked Negroes were eating high on the hog, rubbing elbows with white folk, sitting in Washington, D.C., the masses of Black people in this country continued to live in the slum and in the ghetto. The masses, the masses of Black people in this country remain unemployed, and the masses of Black people in this country continue to go to the worst schools and get the worst education. Along during the same time appeared a movement known as the Black Muslim movement. The Black Muslim movement did this: Up until the time the Black Muslim movement came on the scene, the NAACP was regarded as radical. They wanted to investigate it. They wanted to investigate it. CORE and all the rest of them were under suspect, under suspicion. King wasn’t heard of. When the Black Muslim movement came along talking that kind of talk that they talked, the white man said, “Thank God for the NMCP.” The Black Muslim movement has made the NMCP acceptable to white folks. It made its leaders acceptable. They then began to refer to them as responsible Negro leaders. Which meant they were responsible to white folk. Now I am not attacking the NMCP. I’m just telling you about it. And what makes it so bad, you can’t deny it.

So this is the contribution that that movement made. It frightened a lot of people. A lot of people who wouldn’t act right out of love begin to act right out of fear. Because Roy [Wilkins] and [James] Farmer and some of the others used to tell white folk, look if you don’t act right by us you’re going to have to listen to them. They used us to better their own position, their own bargaining position. No matter what you think of the philosophy of the Black Muslim movement, when you analyze the part that it played in the struggle of Black people during the past twelve years you have to put it in its proper context and see it in its proper perspective. The movement itself attracted the most militant, the most dissatisfied, the most uncompromising elements of the Black community. And also the youngest elements of the Black community. And as this movement grew, it attracted such a militant, uncompromising, dissatisfied element.”

Following Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965, and the signing of the Voting Rights Act in August, Martin Luther King, Jr., would start moving away from the mainstream organizations, becoming increasingly more anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist in his speeches and becoming increasingly more disliked by the liberal establishment and mainstream, white America. Like with Malcolm X, something that can be pointed out about both men is that Dr. King’s evolving political ideology went along with him stepping away from and questioning some of the movements and ideas with which he was previously involved.

There was already the fact that, as discussed in Stride Toward Freedom, in the chapter concerning his “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”, and understood from stories told elsewhere, Dr. King held a more complicated and nuanced position with regard to nonviolence, especially through the lens of full pacificism, self-defense, as a strategy, and probably most importantly as differing from the intentionally pushed narrative and misinterpretation around violence generally. That same narrative fits also to project disinformation and ideology concerning tolerance and progress in a way that represents King in a way favorable to those who at the time opposed him while contradicting his ideas.

Dr. King, also, as far back as his university days, had an acquaintance with philosophical and political-economic ideas, such as by Karl Marx, and although he objected to certain aspects on religious grounds, King agreed to fundamental principles of the derivative socialist and communist ideas. This can also be seen in his answer to a question about communism I shared with my original YouTube video on the issue. King would also praise W.E.B. Du Bois in a speech.

With Malcolm, his stepping away from the N.O.I. allowed him to expand his ideas beyond the organization, and the same was true of King. King already started expressing ideas against the mainstream, liberal establishment, as well as individuals who generally held reactions that objected to radical change and fundamental justice and equality in his Letter from Birmingham Jail in 1963. Escaping the agenda surrounding the mainstream civil rights movement allowed King to express those ideas publicly.

The Chicago Freedom Movement would take place starting in 1965 but would especially escalate with Dr. King in 1966. This would show and prove King’s refreshed agenda. The Chicago Campaign was one that represented a move to establish a struggle against the overall Amerian system of racism and white supremacy. The focus, as it was earlier, especially for King, would no longer be limited to focusing on the South, it was now exposing racism and white supremacy in Northern cities, which was as prevalent and violent – if not more so.

King would notably express his ideas and growing frustrations in his speeches Beyond Vietnam and The Other America, as well as in his organizing of another Washington protest/march for the Poor People’s Campaign.

King would escape an attempt on his life carried out in 1958 where he was stabbed in the chest, very close to striking a fatal blow. He would discuss this in his I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech. This was a speech he was giving in Memphis where he traveled to support striking sanitation workers. A day later, on April 4, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., would be assassinated.


I’ve stated this elsewhere – but to reiterate one more time – regardless of the nefarious intent or cooperation of various elements of the different opposition movements with regard to the elite power structures of capital/white supremacy, both the mainstream, Civil Rights Movement (specifically, pre-1965) and the N.O.I. with their narrative of separation and integration worked, ultimately, toward the goals of that elite, capitalist and white supremacist interest. The narrative of separation and integration continued to be used as a historical canard and was completely adopted by the mainstream establishment’s media and historical narrative, both at that time and today worked.

It is clear from a historical analysis of the plight of black Americans that, even at the time of the Civil Rights Movement around 1954 and onward with subsequent movements, an analysis like was given by Du Bois as far back as the 1930s that included the analysis of both white supremacy and capitalism, in addition to the major parties of the U.S. (Democrats and Republicans), racial pride in black communities, cooperative and strong economic effort, strong institutions and education, etc., was the proper analysis.

The entire divide in what became the contention between integration and separation with regard to the mainstream, Civil Rights Movement and groups like the N.O.I., but particularly the position of the mainstream movement, was determined by the contention between the N.A.A.C.P. and Du Bois, where the mainstream organization, as did subsequent ones, rejected a Marxian critique of capitalist society that recognized how unviable and unstable capitalism was as a system and how so intertwined it was with white supremacy, rejected the building of independent and strong black organizations in favor of fighting for desegregation at the potential expense of having strong black institutions, rejected the critique of the major political parties in favor of working with them for legislation and policy that failed to achieve the end goals, rejected the analysis of the prevalence of racism and discrimination rooted in the fundamental capitalist and white supremacist structure of American that was pervasive throughout the entire class structure of American society (this was in favor of seeing a faster acceptance from the general white population and faster progress than was realistic), rejected the pan-Africanist and internationalist structure of fighting for human rights in favor of solely focusing on civil and political rights within an American context, rejected (or at least didn’t initially inphasize) a critique of the imperialist structure of American forign policy toward other colonized and oppressed people globally and against their fights for self-determination and human rights, and so on.

Both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., represented moving more toward those positions. As pointed out later by Harry Belafonte, Dr. King questioned the previous and future strategy saying “What deeply troubles me now is that for all the steps we’ve taken toward integration, I’ve come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house.” King did not entirely, at least at that point, reject the entirety of what was done in the past, but it was the beginning of recognizing the mistakes. Already pointed out above, he moved toward the positions of being anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and extremely critical of the racism coming from white liberals/moderates. In a similar fashion, Malcolm X, also, properly began pointing out the mistakes he made with the N.O.I. and was moving toward views of international human rights, pan-Africanism, and toward the mainstream movement, in addition to all of the things he properly pointed out while critiquing the mainstream movement as a part of the N.O.I.

In a 1963 moderated discussion with Malcolm and other civil rights leaders, it clearly shows both the opposition between the movements. In the same program, the failure is shown in a review of the conversation thirty years later. In response to a question on what will be remembered out of integration and separations, Wyatt Tee Walker perfectly and poignantly illustrates one of the key points of my series in the following words (at 1HR and 45MIN):

The moderator, Richard D. Heffner, asked, “which Malcolm, which civil rights movement is going to be remembered: the separatist, the integrationist?” Wyatt Tee Walker replied first by saying that he didn’t like “to call the phrase integrationist” but “desegregationist”. This is very important because it recognizes what I was have been trying to point out this entire series with regard to the way there is an improper framing and imposing of the terminology of integration. He instead stated, with recognition of the historical failure, that among them were those who were not concerned with “being with white people to give any kind of affirmation to ourselves” but to “be sure that there was a guarantee that we as American citizens had access to everything else all other Americans had access to.” He goes on to say about the issue that “the verbiage of the media in that time…in a sense brainwashed people’s opinions, but we were more desegregationists than we were integrationist.”

On the success of the Civil Rights Movement, he said the following:

“I don’t really subscribe to being successful. I remember the morning that I stood by the Washington Monument on the great march in ’63 [March on Washington]. And, I really believed with all my heart that the beloved community was just around the corner, 7-8 years away. And now here 30 some years later or more, I know I will not see it in my lifetime, even if I lived to 100 years old. And, that’s the reality. There is the illusion that progress has been made but the reality is, that, what progress has been made has been more cosmetic than it has been consequential.”

This follows the feelings and timeline of Du Bois in his critique of the N.A.A.C.P. in feeling that we were very far away with regard to the issues of racial prejudice and discrimination in America.

They go on to mention the elimination of Jim Crow, which represented a part of the U.S. system which was unnecessary and outdated and what was successfully targeted and basically allowed to be dismantled by U.S. capital/white supremacy. Walker continues to point out that it was that very “wedding…of capitalism and racism” – as he put it – which was foundational in America from the beginning from his historical perspective, saying the following:

“Racism justified – was justified by the capitalist system. And, until we have a radical change in our economic system in America, I don’t think we are going to make any serious dent in the effects and the symbols of racism in our American society.”

The trajectory being recognized by Malcolm in combination with younger groups, as mentioned in the discussion mentioned above, came together in a Black Liberation Movement built on anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism as with the Black Panthers and other groups. They picked up the issues of racial pride, Marxian critique of capitalism with a radical rejection of the current political-economic system, and an international and domestic coalition of all people coming together to overthrow the current structure of America. As with the assassinations of both Malcolm and Martin, this movement was targeted with extreme force and entirely destabilized and dismantled. However, for any goals toward black liberation, such a movement would need to be rebuilt upon the same radical principles with a refined understanding of the entire context of American history and the struggle of black Americans.

Check out the series conclusion: here.

Austin Mayle

Austin Mayle

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