Looking Back at Malcolm X’s Message to the Grassroots Speech Delivered 50 Years Ago Today

Malcolm X talked about Civil Rights & Black church leadership taking funds to compromise on key positions during the March on Washington

Malcolm X

Throughout the year there has been a number of celebrations, commemorations and gatherings about the 50th anniversaries of a variety of landmark events that have shaped this country especially as it pertains to the Civil Rights and Freedom Struggles. In recent months we looked at the 50th anniversary of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers being assassinated in Jackson Mississippi on June 12th 1963..

We looked back on the Great March on Washington (March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom) August 28th 1963... We also looked back on the tragic bombing of the 16th street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, then dubbed Bombingham on September 15th 1963 Here 4 Black girls Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair were killed in the blast.

Later that day two Black boys, 16-year-old Johnny Robinson and 13-year-old Virgil Ware would be killed by KKK members and the police.. All this was in retaliation to the March on Washington. This horrific incident would forever change the Civil Rights Movement..

Today many are gearing up to look back at on the 50th anniversary President John F Kennedy being assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22 1963. To this day his death is shrouded in mystery as many have come to believe his accused killer, Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone.

In addition to these 50th anniversary landmark events, we also commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

There is no doubt that 1963 was a turbulent year and as we discuss the events of that year, what is sadly left out is the strong presence of Malcolm X.. In many of the discussions he’s been literally written out of history. His name is not mentioned. His analysis of the situation at hand are unstudied. For example, the morning that Medgar Evers was shot, Malcolm X appeared on a national TV show with March on Washington organizers, James Farmer and Wyatt T Walker and had a remarkable debate about the direction the Civil Rights Movement was headed. Years later Farmer and Walker would re appear on that PBS show and to relive the debate. It was on that show they pointed out the how and why Malcolm was right on many of the points he raised up..You can peep that Great Debate HERE

In spite of his harsh critiques of the MOW, Malcolm X wound up being in DC that day holding court at a nearby hotel and offering his assistance if needed as the day unfolded.  A couple of months later on October 11th 1963, Malcolm would deliver a hard-hitting riveting speech at UC Berkeley, where he lays out the state of Black America, White Liberalism and White Flight and Token Integration..


Malcolm X Message to the GrassrootsPerhaps Malcolm X’s best known speech was delivered on November 10th 1963 in Detroit at the Northern Negro Grass Roots Leadership Conference which was held in King Solomon Baptist Church. Titled Message to the Grassroots, it would go on to be one of his last speeches while being a member of the Nation of Islam. After Kennedy was assassinated, Malcolm made remarks about ‘chickens coming home to roost’. He was indefinitely suspended and then later split to form his own organization.

In this speech, Malcolm X goes in as he describes the concept of revolution and the difference between the ‘Black revolution’ and the ‘Negro revolution’. He uses as backdrop the awakening that has been taking place throughout Africa and Latin America and reminds the audience that a revolution is about land, will often result in bloodshed and is not about turning the other cheek, holding hands and compromising. He also talks about the landmark Bandung Conference in Indonesia where Asian and African countries came together to assess how to deal with European nations.

Later in the speech, Malcolm lays out the difference between the House Negro and the Field Negro during slavery where he talks about the House Negro being attached to his master and down to put out a fire in the master’s house quicker than the master would. Years later scholars would point out that House Negro was not as docile and accommodating as Malcolm depicted. If anything he just as great a threat as the field Negro because he was in proximity to food and children. It was also pointed out that house Negroes were often treated harsh.

The real crux of Malcolm’s speech comes where he lays out what went wrong with the March on Washington. He talks about how the tone of the March started out being militant and one of defiance.. There was promise of shutting down the city and disrupting traffic. Malcolm notes that President Kennedy called on key organizers in the Civil Rights Movement, then known as the Big Six and told them to stop the march. Kennedy soon learned that the Big Six werent in charge of the march and thus efforts were made for them to take it over and redirect it. In the speech Malcolm describes in detail how the MOW was co-opted even name checking some of the money people like philanthropist Stephen Currier who would help the leaders get money and media time.

Malcolm concludes that the march was so tightly controlled  that Black folks were told what signs to carry, what songs to sing and what speech could be made or not made and what time to leave. Decades later we now know the federal government had secretly installed an over-riding switch that would allow them to turn off the mics and pipe in music from gospel singer Mahalia Jackson if things got too militant. Author Gary Younge highlights this in his book ‘The Speech‘, which talks about that day and how MLK would up giving his famous I Have a Dream Speech’.

With all that happened in 1963 and with everyone looking back 50 years later, it would be a grave disservice not take into account Malcolm’s presence, contributions and insights which have stood the test of time.


We Remember Malcolm X -Our Black Shining Prince



Here Malcolm X speaks about the 1963 Church Bombings  in Birmingham http://bit.ly/9PU4A4

Here Malcolm X Speaks on the Ballot or the Bullet over gang Starr beats http://bit.ly/9gqNBJ

Here Malcolm X Speaks on America’s Problem & us Being Ex-Slaves  http://bit.ly/bKNRYB

Here Malcolm X Speaks You Don’t Know What A Revolution Is? http://bit.ly/aFllj4


Listen to the special Breakdown FM Mix by clickling Here  http://odeo.com/episodes/1212116-Breakdown-FM-Celebrating-Malcolm-X-Our-Shining-Black-Prince

malcolm_xToday we celebrate the life and times of Malcolm X. It’s his 84th birthday. Included in this 30 minute audio mix are excerpts from his speeches which underscore is outlook and philosophy. We also have keen commentary from people like Sista Souljah and the late Ossie Davis.. Below is some good information about Malcolm X

Malcolm Little was born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Louise and Earl Little. Louise Little, born of biracial heritage, was a native of Grenada in the British West Indies. Earl Little, a six-foot described as very powerful in appearance, was born Georgia where he worked as a Baptist minister and organizer for Marcus Garvey. A staunch Garveyite, Earl Little believed strongly in ideas of black-nationalism and pan-Africanism.

Louise, his second wife, bore six children: Wilfred, Hilda, Philbert, Malcolm, Yvonne, and Reginald. Earl Little also had three children by a first wife: Ella, Earl, and Mary. Because of Little’s advocacy for Garvey’s movement, his family was terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan and other whites. To avoid any more violent harassment by these elements Little moved his family to Lansing, Michigan. However the racism proved impossible to escape. In Lansing white racists placed a beaten Earl Little on a railway track where he was killed by an oncoming train. They claimed he committed suicide. His father’s early death at the hands of whites would leave he and his seven siblings alone with their mother.

The stress of the times placed his mother in a mental institution and Malcolm was sent to a foster home. Malcolm attended school until eighth grade living with different families. When a white teacher stopped him from trying to become a lawyer, he dropped out of school entirely. After years of transfers to state institutions and boarding houses, Malcolm moved to live with his sister Ella in Boston. Here, he took a job as a shoeshine boy at the Roseland Ballroom. But such a lowly status did not suit Malcolm and he soon took up the role of a hustler, peddling narcotics and engaging in petty thefts. Malcolm even took to straightening his hair and dating white women. But Roxbury proved to be too small for him, and in 1942 he took a job as a railroad dining car porter, working out of Roxbury and New York.

Settling in Harlem, New York, he became more involved in criminal activities: robbing, selling narcotics and even working as a pimp. In Harlem he also got his nickname “Detroit Red”, because his hometown Lansing was close to Detroit and his hair was red. After a year in Harlem, Malcolm was officially initiated into hustler society.

He returned to Boston in 1945 after falling out with another hustler, and continued a life of crime, forming his own house robbing gang. Arrested for robbery in February 1946, he was convicted and sentenced to prison for seven years. While in prison, Malcolm became a follower of Elijah Muhammad, the then leader of the Lost Found Nation of Islam, with branches in Detroit, Chicago and New York. Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad corresponded by mail while in prison. Malcolm’s brothers Philbert and Reginald, visiting him in jail, convinced him to join the NOI and follow the teachings of Elijah Muhammad.

Following NOI policies, Malcolm soon discarded what he deemed his “slave name”, Little, and took the new name “X” to symbolize his lost and unknown name. He improved his knowledge base by reading extensively while in jail as well as studying from the Qu’ran and following strictly the Nation of Islam’s dietary laws and moral codes. After his parole in 1952, Malcolm X undertook organizational work for the Nation of Islam under the guidance of Elijah Muhammad.

As a minister Malcolm founded mosques in Boston, Philadelphia, Harlem and elsewhere and made the national expansion of the movement possible. Malcolm’s ideology was expressed in his fiery orations, newspaper columns as well as radio and television interviews. In addition, he helped to found the NOI newspaper Muhammad Speaks. Malcolm was said to be the only black man who “could stop a race riot – or start one”. Due to his influences, NOI membership reached approximately 30,000 by 1963. In January 1958 he married Betty X, who was also a member of the Nation of Islam. Malcolm’s rise in power became a threat to competing NOI ministers and especially to the U.S. government who, through the FBI, kept extensive files upon him.

Malcolm-xthinkgreenDisobeying direct NOI orders to remain silent on the matter of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Malcolm stated it was a case of “chickens coming home to roost”. This resulted in his suspension from his NOI post and his eventual split with the organization and his father figure, Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm went on to form his own groups, Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Outside of the NOI Malcolm continued his messages of Black Nationalism, independence, and self-defense. His ideas of racial separation were modified but his ideas of white society and racism were by no means drastically altered in his last few years.

As one scholar put it, “Malcolm never let white people off the hook”. He did however see the possibility of working with other progressive black groups. During this time Malcolm began to advocate a more pragmatic black nationalism, stating that blacks should control the politics within their own community.

At the height of his power Malcolm was one of black America’s most powerful voices. He traveled widely in Europe and Africa attempting to link the black struggle in America with those abroad. At one point he even advocated and prepared to take the United States before the United Nations for charges of “genocide” against its black citizens.

In 1964 Malcolm made a pilgrimage to Mecca, obligatory for orthodox Muslims, where upon he changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. On February 21, 1964 in front of a crowd in the Audubon Ballroom in New York City, Malcolm X was shot to death by three men. Labeled as angry NOI members, the three were convicted with Malcolm’s death. However a host of suspicious events and contradictory information presented at the trial have led many to speculate whether more sinister forces, namely the US government, may have been behind his death. The only acquaintance of Malcolm to attempt to prove this point immediately following death, Leon Ameer, died of a sleeping pill overdose before his case could be presented. Thus Malcolm’s life, like his death, has remained shrouded in mystery.

But even beyond death, El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz inspired generations for decades to come. His views and ideologies on black nationalism and Pan-Africanism would be picked up by many. His fascinating life, teachings, and tragic death would make him both a martyr and a model for the era of Black Power that was soon to come.

For More Information See: Malcolm X. The Autobiography Of Malcolm X Ballantine Books, 1992, c.1965. Arnold Adoff, et al. Malcolm X 2000. Malcolm X. February 1965: The Final Speeches Pathfinder, 1992. Malcolm A To X: The Man And His Ideas edited by David Gallen. Pathfinder, 1992 Walter Dean Myers, Leonard Jenkins. Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly The End Of White World Supremacy: Four Speeches by Malcolm X. Arcade Pub., 1989 Michael Eric Dyson. Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X 1996 Walter Dean Myers. Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary: A Biography Scholastic, 1993. Clayborne Carson. Malcolm X: The FBI File Carroll & Graf, 1991.

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