Asalaam Alaikum. Brothers and sisters, I think we have a very nice audience here this evening taking into consideration that this is a holiday weekend when normally you and I would be out on the beach rubbing elbows with those other elbows. So I want to thank those of you who have taken off from the beach and those many other places and taken the time to come out here this evening so that we can try and get a better understanding of what we must do and therefore what we are going to do.
Before starting out—I don’t know if anybody is here from the New York Journal American. Is anybody here from the New York Journal American? The reason I would like to know, and if anybody comes in from the New York Journal American please let me know, is because last Wednesday they had a headline in here saying that Malcolm X plans to take over, which to me is a deliberately concocted blue-eyed lie.
This person, who professes to be named Martin Arundel, whatever kind of name that is, on the front page of this paper went on to explain how I had named last Sunday Gloria Richardson, Albert Cleage, and Jesse Gray and several others as part of a brain trust responsible for setting up the OAAU. I doubt that any of you who are sitting here heard me mention those names last Sunday. But here’s a man who reported it just like he heard it.
And this is one of the reasons why you have such bad racial problems on this earth today. You tell lies about us. And we get to believing that you just might be what we had been told you are. At least all the evidence leads in that direction. So this particular paper, the New York Journal American, filled its front page on Wednesday with nothing but lies allegedly giving an account of what took place here last Sunday. And I very much doubt that this person was here.
Also it mentioned that I attacked the civil rights leaders, which I didn’t do. I didn’t attack anybody but the man who has been brutal to us. And it isn’t the civil rights leaders who have been brutal. They’ve been the victims of brutality. They have been loving you all while you all have been hating them. So I didn’t attack them. I probably questioned their intelligence in letting you beat them without fighting back. But I don’t think that we attacked them. In fact, we sent them a telegram, we sent Martin Luther King a telegram, letting him know that if he needed any help, we’d come on the run. Does that sound like we’re attacking civil rights leaders? No, we’re telling them that they need some help and we’ll help them. But not nonviolently.
You’ll excuse me for opening up the meeting on that note, but it is very trying on one’s patience to have to listen to white people day in and day out say that we bar them from our meetings, or that we don’t like them, or that our attitude is sort of bitter. And then when you let them into your meeting, they prove that you should have kept them out of it in the first place. I guess bad white people put you good ones on the spot, don’t they?
On Thursday of this week, or I think it was Friday, there was a great hullaballoo made over the recent passage of the civil rights bill. On the front pages of all the newspapers the day after it was supposedly signed so that it was in effect, they had pictures of little black boys sitting in barbershop chairs letting white barbers cut their hair. And this was hailed as a great victory. Pick up on that.
In 1964, when oppressed people all over this earth are fighting for their place in the sun, the Negro in America is supposed to stand up and cheer because he can sit down and let a white man mess up his head.
At the same time that so much hullaballoo was being made over the passage of the civil rights bill, if you read closely between the lines, a little black boy in Georgia was found hung on a tree. A 1964 June lynching. Nothing was said in the paper, no hullaballoo was made over that. But here’s a little fourteen-year-old black boy in Georgia lynched, and to keep you and me from knowing what was taking place, they showed another picture of a little black boy letting a white man cut his hair.
This is the trickery that you and I are faced with every day in this society. They on the one hand try and show us how much progress we’re making. But if we look through all of that propaganda we find that our people are still being hung, they’re still disappearing, and no one is finding them, or no one is finding their murderers.
And at the same time also that so much hullaballoo was being made over this new civil rights legislation, a bill went into effect known as the no-knock law or stop-and-frisk law, which was an anti-Negro law. They make one law that’s outright against Negroes and make it appear that it is for our people, while at the same time they pass another bill that’s supposedly designed to give us some kind of equal rights. You know, sooner or later you and I are going to wake up and be fed up, and there’s going to be trouble. There’s got to be trouble.
While they were making so much hullaballoo again over the passage of these new civil rights bills or legislation, they could not deny the fact that all these new laws are aimed at the south. None of them are aimed at the North. Nothing in this legislation is designed to straighten out the situation that you and I are confronted with here in New York City. There’s nothing in the bill that will stop job discrimination in New York, that will stop housing discrimination in New York, that will stop educational discrimination in New York. There’s nothing in the bill that will stop the police from exercising police state tactics in New York. There’s nothing in the bill that touches on your and my problem here in New York City. Everything in the bill deals with our people in the South. We are interested in our people in the South. But we have to question whether or not this bill, these laws, will help our people in the South when ten years ago the Supreme Court came up with a law called the desegregated school law, or something to that effect, which hasn’t been enforced yet.
And you and I would be children, we would be boys, we would be mental midgets, if we let the white man even make us think that some new laws were going to be enforced in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Texas while the Supreme Court law has not yet been enforced in New York City. You’d be out of your mind to even look happy. And you’d be way out of your mind to make them think that you’re happy. No, when you and I know that these political tricks are being pulled, if you and I don’t let it be known that we know it, why, they’ll keep on with their skullduggery and their trickery, and they will think that the problem is being solved when actually they’re only compounding it and making it worse. If they can’t enforce laws that are laid down by the Supreme Court, which is the land’s highest court, do you think that they can enforce some new laws in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia? And if they can’t enforce these new laws, then why do they pretend? Why come up with the bill? What is all this hullaballoo for? It’s nothing but twentieth-century trickery, some more of the same old legislative trickery that you and I and our mothers and fathers have been handed for the past fifty, sixty, or one hundred years.
Prior to one hundred years ago, they didn’t need tricks. They had chains. And they needed the chains because you and I hadn’t yet been brainwashed thoroughly enough to submit to their brutal acts of violence submissively. Prior to a hundred years ago, you had men like Nat Turner, that Brother Benjamin was talking about, and others, Toussaint L’Ouverture. None of them would submit to slavery. They’d fight back by any means necessary. And it was only after the spirit of the black man was completely broken and his desire to be a man was completely destroyed, then they had to use different tricks. They just took the physical chains from his ankles and put them on his mind. And from then on, the type of slavery that you and I have been experiencing, we’ve been kept in it, year in and year out, by a change of tricks. Never do they change our condition or the slavery. They only change the tricks.
This is done from the White House right on down to the plantation boss in Alabama and Mississippi. Right on down from the White House you are tricked, right on down to the plantation boss in Mississippi and Alabama. There is no difference between the plantation boss in Mississippi and the plantation boss in Washington, D.C. Both of them are plantation bosses. What you experience in this country is one huge plantation system, the only difference now being that the President is the plantation boss.
And he’s got a whole lot of well-known celebrity-style Negroes to act as overseers, to keep us in check. When we begin to get too bad, they jump in and say, now, let’s be responsible, or let’s be intelligent, or let’s don’t go too fast, let’s slow down. But it’s still a slave system. It’s only brought about in a more modern way, a more up-to-date form of slavery.
Proof of which, of the people who just got off the boat yesterday in this country, from the various so-called Iron Curtain countries, which are supposedly an enemy to this country, and no civil rights legislation is needed to bring them into the mainstream of the American way of life, then you and I should just stop and ask ourselves, why is it needed for us? They’re actually slapping you and me in the face when they pass a civil rights bill. It’s not an honor; it’s a slap in the face. They’re telling you that you don’t have it, and at the same time they’re telling you that they have to legislate before you can get it. Which in essence means they’re telling you that since you don’t have it and yet you’re born here, there must be something about you that makes you different from everybody else who’s born here; something about you that actually, though you have the right of birth in this land, you’re still not qualified under their particular system to be recognized as a citizen.
Yet the Germans, that they used to fight just a few years ago, can come here and get what you can’t get. The Russians, whom they’re supposedly fighting right now, can come here and get what you can’t get without legislation; don’t need legislation. The Polish don’t need legislation. Nobody needs it but you. Why?—you should stop and ask yourself why. And when you find out why, then you’ll change the direction you’ve been going in, and you’ll change also the methods that you’ve been using trying to get in that direction.
We’ve got to seek some new methods, a reappraisal of the situation, some new methods for attacking it or solving it, and a new direction, and new allies. We need allies who are going to help us achieve a victory, not allies who are going to tell us to be nonviolent. If a white man wants to be your ally, what does he think of John Brown? You know what John Brown did? He went to war. He was a white man who went to war against white people to help free slaves. He wasn’t nonviolent. White people call John Brown a nut. Go read the history, go read what all of them say about John Brown. They’re trying to make it look like he was a nut, a fanatic. They made a movie on it, I saw a movie on the screen one night. Why, I would be afraid to get near John Brown if I go by what other white folks say about him.
But they depict him in this image because he was willing to shed blood to free the slaves. And any white man who is ready and willing to shed blood for your freedom—in the sight of other whites, he’s nuts. As long as he wants to come up with some nonviolent action, they go for that, if he’s liberal, a nonviolent liberal, a love-everybody liberal. But when it comes time for making the same kind of contribution for your and my freedom that was necessary for them to make for their own freedom, they back out of the situation. So, when you want to know good white folks in history where black people are concerned, go read the history of John Brown. That was what I call a white liberal. But those other kind, they are questionable.
So if we need white allies in this country, we don’t need those kind who compromise. We don’t need those kind who encourage us to be polite, responsible, you know. We don’t need those kind who give us that kind of advice. We don’t need those kind who tell us how to be patient. No, if we want some white allies, we need the kind that John Brown was, or we don’t need you. And the only way to get those kind is to turn in a new direction.
Now this may anger some of you who’ve been involved in protests and demonstrations and other things. Maybe you don’t realize it, but I think most of us here do. The days of demonstrations of protest are over. They’re outdated. All that does is put you in jail. You’ve got to pay money to get out. And you still haven’t solved the problem. Go and find out how much money has been paid by demonstrators for court, for legal fees, bail bonds, during the past five or six years. And then find out what has been gained from it and you’ll see that we’re in the red. We’re broke.
Plus, a protest demonstration is an act that is a reaction to what someone else has done. And as long as you’re involved in it, you’re in someone else’s bag. You’re reacting to what they’ve done. And all they have to do to keep you on their string is keep situations developing to keep you reacting, to keep you so busy you never have a chance to sit down and figure out a constructive program of your own that will enable you and me to make the progress that is our due.
An example. A demonstration is all right if it’s going to get results. Oh, yes. But a demonstration just to demonstrate is a waste of time. If someone touches one of us and we want to go where the guilty person is, we all go together. But we don’t go just to walk around the block with a sign. No, we go to get the one who harmed us—that’s a demonstration, that’s what’s known as positive action. You don’t go and march around someone to let him know you don’t like what he did. Why, you can stay home and let him know you don’t like what he did. If he’s got any sense, he knows that you shouldn’t like what he did. No, that stuff is outdated.
The kind of a demonstration you and I want and need is one that gets positive results. Not a one-day demonstration, but a demonstration until the end, the end of whatever we’re demonstrating against. That’s a demonstration. Don’t say that you don’t like what I did and you’re going to come out and walk in front of my house for an hour. No, you’re wasting your time. I’ll sit down and go to sleep until your hour is up. If we’re going to demonstrate, it should be a demonstration based upon no-holds-barred. I know, the sooner the better. But, then again, not the sooner the better. Because whenever black people are independent enough to come up with the type of demonstration that is necessary to get results, there’s going to be bloodshed. Because in a real demonstration, the white man’s going to resist—yes, he is. So if you’re not for some all-out action, you shouldn’t get involved in any kind of action. This is all I’m saying. If whatever you are demonstrating for isn’t worth dying for, don’t demonstrate. Your demonstration is in vain.
And when I say whenever it isn’t worth dying for, I don’t mean one-way dying. Dying must be reciprocal, mutual; some dying on both sides. If it’s not worth that, stay home.
Please just try and understand. Anything that involves a large number of people can always get out of hand, which means it can always bring death to you. Any kind of demonstration that you’re in can bring death to you, especially when you’re in a society that believes in brutality. So when you get involved in a large demonstration, you can die. But you should not be willing to die alone. So, if you should not be willing to die alone, it also involves taking the lives of others. And if it is not worth your taking the lives of others, then don’t demonstrate. This is what you must understand. Any cause that can cost you your life must be the type of cause in which you yourself are willing to take life.
If it can cost you your life and you aren’t willing to take life, do you realize what you are doing to yourself? Why, you’re walking into a lion’s den with your hands tied. If it is not worth dying for, get out of it. If it can cost you your life and, at the same time, you aren’t psychologically prepared to take life, stay out of it. Get out of it. All you’ll do is get in the way. You’ll make someone have to do something unnecessarily. You’ll go and get yourself killed, and your brother will have to go and take the head that took your head. And your head isn’t even worth it.
So all of these off-the-wall, excuse the expression, activities that we’ve been maneuvered into during the past ten years—we don’t want that. The Organization of Afro-American Unity was formed by brothers and sisters, black, brown, red, and yellow, from the Afro-American community for the purpose of trying to devise some kind of positive program that would enable us to take positive steps toward getting some positive results. And one of the first aims of this organization is to internationalize your and my problem.
Even in these demonstrations that brought about token integration, the only reason he gave up some tokens was because the world was watching him. He didn’t do it because your protest changed him. This is what you’ve got to understand. Why, you can protest against this man all day long. It’s no change of heart that makes him back up. He looks across the water and sees the world looking at him. And he changes only to the degree that you have reached world opinion. If you have changed world opinion, he changes. But you don’t change his opinion. No. And if you don’t understand that, then you need to crawl back in the cotton patch. Because that’s where you belong. You don’t belong out here on the world stage.
And if it took world pressure to bring us the gains, whatever gains we’ve made, then what should we do today? Continue to look to Washington, D.C.? No, look to the world. Bring the attention of the world on our problem. Bring the support of the world to bear on our side against Uncle Sam. Don’t treat Uncle Sam like he’s a friend. If he’s a friend, we wouldn’t be in this shape. If he was your friend, you wouldn’t be a second-class citizen. If he was your friend, then a little black child wouldn’t have been hung on a tree in Georgia the other day. If he was your friend, you wouldn’t have a segregated school system in New York City. No, you have got no friends in Washington, D.C. You’ve only got friends when you get outside the confines of North America. You’ve got friends in Africa, friends in Asia, friends in Latin America.
So we have to take our problem to our friends, or put our problem at a level where our friends can help us or in a forum where our friends have some say-so. Since our friends abroad, our brothers, have no say-so in America’s domestic affairs, we have to take our problem out of America’s domestic jurisdiction and place it in a forum where our friends and our brothers have some say-so. In this we will be showing some intelligence because it will show that we are at least able to distinguish between friend and foe. Right now, we haven’t always reflected this ability. We’ve gone to our enemy looking for friendship and we ran from our friends. They’ve put us on the racetrack.
We have to make the world see that the problem that we’re confronted with is a problem for humanity. It’s not a Negro problem; it’s not an American problem. You and I have to make it a world problem, make the world aware that there’ll be no peace on this earth as long as our human rights are being violated in America. Then the world will have to step in and try and see that our human rights are respected and recognized. We have to create a situation that will explode this world sky-high unless we are heard from when we ask for some kind of recognition and respect as human beings. This is all we want—to be a human being. If we can’t be recognized and respected as a human being, we have to create a situation where no human being will enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
If you’re not for that, you’re not for freedom. It means you don’t even want to be a human being. You don’t want to pay the price that is necessary. And you shouldn’t even be allowed around us other humans if you don’t want to pay the price. You should be kept in the cotton patch where you’re not a human being. You’re an animal that belongs in the cotton patch like a horse and a cow, or a chicken or a possum, if you’re not ready to pay the price that is necessary to be paid for recognition and respect as a human being.
Brothers, the price is death, really. The price to make others respect your human rights is death. You have to be ready to die or you have to be ready to take the lives of others. This is what old Patrick Henry meant when he said liberty or death. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, or kill me. Treat me like a man, or kill me. This is what you have to say. Respect me, or put me to death. But when you start to put me to death, we’re both going to die together. You have to say that.
This is not violence. This is intelligence. As soon as you start even thinking like that, they say you’re advocating violence. No, you’re advocating intelligence. Didn’t you hear Lyndon B. Johnson last week when he said that they’ll go to war in a minute to protect their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness? Did they say LBJ was violent? No, they said he was a good president. Well, let’s you and I be good presidents.
It’s time for you and me now to let the world know how peaceful we are, how well-meaning we are, how law-abiding we wish to be. But at the same time we have to let the same world know we’ll blow their world sky-high if we’re not respected and recognized and treated the same as other human beings are treated. If you won’t tell them that, you need to just get off the planet. You shouldn’t even be around in the company of people. No, in fact, you should be too ashamed to be seen out in public because you’re not a man, you’re less than a man, subhuman.
One of the first steps toward our being able to do this is to internationalize our problem. Let the world know that our problem is their problem, it’s a problem for humanity. And the first form in which this can be done is the United Nations. One of the first acts of business of the Organization of Afro-American Unity is to organize the type of program that is necessary to take your and my case into the United Nations. Not only into the United Nations, but also we need to take it before every international body that sits on this earth. The Organization of African Unity, which consists of thirty-three independent African heads of state, will meet in Cairo on July 17. We should be there letting them know that we’re catching hell in America.
If the Organization of African Unity is set up and composed of the independent heads of state from the African continent, and you and I are from Africa, have African blood in our veins, and we’ve heard them say that Africa is not free until all Africans are free—we’re Africans too, and we want them to be just as concerned at the governmental level with our problem as they are with the problems of our people in South Africa and Angola. And we should let them know about it. Our problem should be placed before the Organization of American States, the OAS. If they are going to listen to the troubles that Cuba creates, if they are going to take the trouble that Haiti presents to the Western Hemisphere before the OAS, if they take the Panamanian situation before the OAS, or if they have trouble in Santo Domingo and it goes before the OAS, you tell me by what right the plight of 22 million of our people here cannot be brought before the OAS. It should be brought before the OAS. Very quickly, we’ll leave the international situation alone for a moment and come to the local situation. If the Organization of Afro-American Unity feels that the problem of black people in this country is worthy of being brought before the world court in order to bring about world opinion on our side, is that all we have in mind? No. When you’re in the ring fighting a man, you’ve got to fight him with long jabs and short uppercuts. You’ve got to be slapping him while you’re dodging, and dodging while you’re slapping him. You have to have a long-range and a short-range goal. President Nkrumah was most right when he said, “Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all other things shall be added unto it.” This is good and true. Politics is power, the science of how to govern.
The only real power that is respected in this society is political power and economic power. Nothing else. There’s no such thing as a moral force that this government recognizes. Why, you’re in a dream world. They don’t know what a moral force is. You read more about moral corruption in Washington, D.C. than anything else. Don’t talk about what happened in Britain with Christine Keeler. What’s happening in Washington, D.C.? Things that can’t even be talked about. The only thing in Britain is they bring it out in the open. The corrupters in Washington are so powerful they can keep it from coming out in the open because they’ve got something on everybody. Everybody is in on it.
The only type of power that this government recognizes is political power and economic power. These are the only two kinds. In the past, our leaders have shown their lack of insight by not realizing that this segregated school system was producing children with an inferior education so that after they would graduate they still weren’t qualified to participate or compete. What have we wasted our time doing? Protesting. To whom? Donovan. Who else? Gross. Why? Because we didn’t know any better. Does Donovan hire himself? No. Does Gross hire himself? No. Who hires both of them? The mayor. We’ve been protesting against the puppet. Well, if you want to protest you got to go against the puppeteer. You have to strike at Wagner. How can you say Wagner is a good man and the two men he appointed are bad men? Wagner isn’t carrying out their program. They’re carrying out his program.
And the only way you can strike at him, you have to have political power. How do we get political power? We have to organize the people of Harlem in a door-by-door campaign, I mean door by door, house by house, people by people, person by person, and you have to make them feel so ashamed that they’re not registered they won’t even come out of the house. We have to create an atmosphere in Harlem—and when I say Harlem, the greater New York area—in which every black man in the greater New York area will feel like he’s a traitor if he’s not a registered voter. His ballot will be like a bullet.
One or the other, we’re at a time in history now where we want freedom, and only two things bring you freedom—the ballot or the bullet. Only two things. Well, if you and I don’t use the ballot and get it, we’re going to be forced to use the bullet. And if you don’t want to use the ballot, I know you don’t want to use the bullet. So let us try the ballot. And if the ballot doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. But let us try the ballot. And the only way we can try the ballot is to organize and put on a campaign that will create a new climate.
The Organization of Afro-American Unity is planning a campaign that will enable us within a matter of weeks to map out the city and touch every person in it who looks like us. There’s only one thing we want them to do: register. That’s all. We’ll make it easy for them. Not register as a Democrat or a Republican, but as an independent. Don’t sell your soul. If you’re registered as a Democrat or a Republican, you’ve sold your soul.
An example. One of the worst things that anyone could have done was done by a well-known Negro leader, so-called—oh, I guess he’s a Negro leader—when he condemned Goldwater. Tell you why. If he’s already condemned Goldwater, what does Johnson have to do for you now? Nothing. Don’t let the man know what you’re against or who you’re against. It’s tactical suicide, tactical suicide, to let Lyndon B. Johnson know this far in advance that you don’t go for the man he’s running against.
Why, he doesn’t have to promise you anything. He’s already got you, dumb you, in his pocket. He needs to offer nothing. Well, as long as you and I follow that kind of birdbrain leadership, we never will have any political heaven. We’ll have political hell. I’m not saying that to criticize any personality, but it must be said. Before you and I commit ourselves in any kind of campaign, make sure that it’s going to help the whole, or don’t say anything at all
This doesn’t mean that I’m for the man. But I never let this man know that I’m against that man until I find out what this man is putting down. Do you understand? Don’t let one think that he’s got you in his pocket. Let him know that he doesn’t know which way you’re going until he produces something that is worthy of your support. Do you understand?
The no-knock law, the stop-and-frisk—we can go picket the police station. What good will it do? The police didn’t pass the law. They’re just out here. Who passed the law? The legislators. How do you protest against the legislators? With the ballot. So what the Negro leader has had you and me doing is going in the wrong direction. Don’t protest against the puppet. Go work on the puppeteer. Go get the director of the show and take him off the scene, and then you can change the cast or you can change the script.
The City Council right now is considering a law that’s designed to make it illegal for you to walk with a rifle or have a rifle. Why just now? As long as it’s been legal to own a rifle, why all of a sudden does the great white father want to pass a law making rifle-carrying illegal? Because of you; he’s afraid of you getting rifles. Every law that they pass is aimed at you. Every legislator who walks inside the place where they make these laws, they think about you. They argue all night long on other laws. But when it comes to passing a law designed to keep you and me in the corral, they can pass it just like that.
So if you want to protest the no-knock law, you need the ballot. If you want to protest what the City Council is doing, you need the ballot. If you want to protest the segregated school system and change it, you need the ballot. Anything you can think of that you want to change right now, the only way you can change it is with a ballot or a bullet. And if you’re not ready to get involved with either one of those, you are satisfied with the status quo. That means we’ll have to change you.
There are 915,743 of our people in the state of Mississippi. That’s almost a million. In 125 counties of Mississippi, they’re in the majority. Ninety other counties, they constitute more than 40 percent of the population. Any time you have that number of black people who are of that numerical majority in that many counties, if they were given the vote, Eastland wouldn’t be representing them. They’d be representing themselves. The state of Mississippi would be in the hands of the black man. And it must be in his hands—by the ballot or the bullet. It must be one or the other.
This is why the campaign that they have in Mississippi for voter registration is a good campaign. They’re not trying to integrate, they’re trying to get our people registered to vote, which is good, because it puts them in a position to strike right at the base of all of their misery. If our people down there are risking their lives so that they can register and be in a position to vote or have some say-so in their own destiny, what do you and I look like in New York City, with the registration booth only a few blocks away, and we haven’t been in it?
And I say, brothers, you’re talking to a man who’s guilty of all of this. I’ve never tried to take part in anything political Couldn’t see it. For one thing, I was in a religious organization that was talking about some thing coming by-and-by. And any time you start thinking about something by-and-by, you can’t take hold of anything now-and-now or here-and-here. A lot of the critics, civil rights persons, used to criticize us, especially me, for not being active in politics. They should be glad, because so many of them were shamming and jiving— excuse the expression, but that’s what they were doing. When we get involved, we’re involved for keeps.
We’ll take a man and try and get all the people to back him. But then if he sells us out, we’ll put him in the Hudson River. In the Hudson River, yes. We’ll back him, we’ll support him, but he has to represent us, not the man downtown. As soon as you back a man, you put him in office, you put him in a position to get you and me something, and then he starts dilly-dallying and compromising and looking out for himself, why, the very law of nature demands that that person be removed by any means necessary.
Since our people are making such a sacrifice to become registered voters in Mississippi, it’s a sin for you and me not to be registered so we can vote in New York City and in New York State, or throughout the North. Here in this state they have forty-one congressmen. Nineteen of these forty-one congressmen from this state are from New York City. New York City is so big that almost half of all of the legislators that leave this state and go to Washington, D.C., come from New York City. They say that the size of New York City is around 8 million people. And they say there’s about a million and a half black people. When they say there’s a million and a half, that means there’s 3 million, because they never let you and me know how many there really are.
Out of the forty-one congressmen from this state, and the nineteen from New York City, only one is black. Think of it. Only one congressman, Adam Powell, out of all these black people, and you and I are saying hurray, hurray, hurray, we’ve got one. Why, brothers, we haven’t got anything near what we’re supposed to have. We become satisfied too quickly. We have to find out what enabled the people here in Manhattan to send a black man to Congress. Then let us see if the same situation exists in the Bronx and get a black man from the Bronx to go to Congress. And find out if the same situation that produced them exists in Brooklyn and get one from Brooklyn. Why, you’re like a nut voting for someone to represent you in a legislative body who doesn’t even look like you. Let us find out who is the congressman in every area where we live and then find out if he’s serving us or if he’s serving someone else. If he’s serving us, let him stay there. And if he’s not serving us, let us get rid of him.
Adam Powell is the only black politician in this country who is independent of the white political machine. This doesn’t mean that he takes advantage of his position always for our good. And it doesn’t mean by me saying this that I’m criticizing him. I’m not. I would never criticize him for the joy of white folks. They just go crazy when they hear you knock at Adam. If I thought he was wrong I wouldn’t say so, I wouldn’t give them that pleasure. In fact, I’d go for him as long as they don’t go for him.
But the point that I’m trying to make is this, that he is independent of the political machine. Why? Because the people support him. Well, the people then should make him aware that they are aware that he wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for them. And therefore the maximum mileage should be gotten from his position, maximum mileage. Because he’s the only black politician in this country who’s independent of the white political machine. And the only reason he’s independent is because you support him. Most of these others—they have to rely on the machine in order to get in office.
But once we find that we have a man that can buck the machine and still go to Washington, then we should let that man know that the only reason he’s bucking it is because we’re behind him. And if we’re behind him, that means we’re watching him and we want results.
There are two senators from this state. Neither one of them are black. Both of them pretend to be pro-black, but as politicians they don’t dare to pretend to be anything else.
There are fifty-eight state senators. Out of those fifty-eight state senators, twenty-five come from New York City. And only two of them are black. Think of this. Twenty-five state senators from New York City and only two of them represent us.
There are 150 state assemblymen. Sixty-five of that 150 are from New York City. And out of that sixty-five, only four are black. Out of sixty-five, we have four. The state assembly is the one that passes the anti-Negro law, no-knock, stop~and-frisk. The state assembly, that’s where it’s passed. You don’t protest at the police precinct. No, the law itself is opening the door for the cop to be a brute or to be a Gestapo-type policeman. But the man who makes this law is the one that goes up to Albany. You can keep him from going to Albany if you are a registered voter.
Once you get the ballot, you know what this means? You don’t have to get out in the street any more and risk your health and your life and your limb demonstrating. All you have to do is organize that political power and direct it against anyone who’s against you or direct it behind anyone who is for you. And in this way you and I will find that we’re always taking constructive, positive action and getting some kind of result.
City councilmen, there are thirty-five city councilmen in New York City. Do you know out of thirty-five city councilmen, there’s only one black one, and he’s a councilman-at-large, J. Raymond Jones? And many of our people don’t even know who the black councilman is. How would you expect to change our miserable situation when we have a council that the black man can’t even get into? He’s not even represented there. We’re not represented in the city government in proportion to our number. We’re not represented in the state government in proportion to our number. And we aren’t represented in the federal government in proportion to our number.
So, the only way we can get them to change their laws is by becoming involved with the ballot. If the ballot won’t do it, I here’s no other alternative but the bullet. I say there’s no other alternative but the bullet. As old Patrick Henry said—I always like to quote Pat because when I was going to their school they taught me to believe in it. They said he was a patriot. And he’s the only one I quote. I don’t know what any of the rest of them said. But I know what Pat said: Liberty or death. That means the ballot or the bullet. That’s what it means in Harlemese, in Harlem talk.
Again, some facts and figures on Harlem that will only take a minute. The total black population based on the 1960 census is 336,364 right here in Harlem. In central Harlem between 110th Street and 155th Street, there are supposedly 193,800 of our people. How do they know? That’s how many they counted. I’ve never been counted. Most of you have never been counted. How many of you have been at home when the man came and said I’m a census taker? I want to see. Look how many of you have your hand up. I know you haven’t been counted.
Well, how does the man know how many of us there are? He doesn’t know. He guesses, brothers. And he tells you what he wants you to believe. Whenever you hear this man tell you that there’s 300,000, there’s a million. He won’t let you know how large you are or how many of you there are. And I have never met anybody yet that’s been counted. Every once in a while, he runs through the neighborhood and says yes, there’s so many and so many. He says that there are approximately 250,000 or more people eligible to register to vote. Approximately 125,000 are registered. Only 59,000 in the last Congressional election. Less that 15,000 voted in the Democratic primary election.
This shows you that most of our people don’t involve themselves in politics at all. And if they did become involved and had a say-so in their destiny, everything would be a great deal different.
Another quick fact. It says that there are more than 10,000 people unemployed in central Harlem and there is not one employment office to accommodate them. Listen to this. The area of highest unemployment in the city is Harlem. There’s not one employment office in Harlem. There are employment agencies. But there’s a difference between an agency and an employment office. An agency sells you a job. If they get you a job, you’ve got to give them four months’ pay . You work for them. That’s slavery, brothers. Why isn’t there an employment office in Harlem if Harlem has the highest rate of unemployment? Can you see the conspiracy?
What the man does is, he sends you to the agency; you pay for your job, which means that if he gives you the job you’ve got to give him a cut for two months. As soon as your two months’ work is up, the man fires you. This is a game, it’s a conspiracy, between the employer and the employment agency. How many of you know that this is not true? This is true. They sell you a job. Then after they sell you a job, they fire you and sell that same job to somebody else. Why, brothers, it’s time for you and me to go on the warpath behind what’s coming down.
No, I say that this is bad. Women constitute 48 percent of the work force in Harlem, 48 percent of the work force. Women, your and my women. The man won’t give us a job, he gives them a job washing his dishes and his little snotty-nosed blue-eyed babies. We go and take care of them.
Concerning the income in Harlem. The average family income in Harlem is only $3,723 per year. And it says here that the mayor’s committee estimated that it takes $6,000 per family to survive. Not to live in ease, to survive. Look, if the mayor sets up a committee and that committee does some research and comes up with the scientific finding that it takes $6,000 for the average family to survive, and then they say that you only average a little over $3,700, brothers, you’re not surviving— you’re in bad shape.
Approximately 15,000 in central Harlem receive some sort of public assistance. That means welfare. There are 3,898 retail stores, all owned by whites, practically. They do an annual gross sale of $345,871,000 per year in this area. Meaning his businesses do this much gross sales in the neighborhood. Then he gives $10 back to the NAACP and $10 to CORE and tells you what a good man he is, he’s your fiend. Why, we need to wake up.
One hundred and sixty-eight liquor stores do an annual gross sale of $34,368,000. And this doesn’t include bars and taverns. Did you hear what I said? The liquor store where you go and buy it by the bottle, not the nightclub or the bar or the tavern, but just the liquor store alone sells you $34,368,000 worth of whiskey a year. Why, you should be ashamed of your drunk self. Do you know that there are governments in Africa whose annual budget to run their entire country for the year isn’t as much as you spend in central Harlem for whiskey? And you wonder why you’re catching so much hell. Why, the money you spend for whiskey will run a government.
So we have to do something about this. And we intend to do it with the Organization of Afro-American Unity. And before we go a step farther—and we didn’t intend to go this late tonight—we want to stop right now just before our question period and give Brother Benjamin here a chance to get on with our collection period. The reason we always have a collection period is that our public collection foots all of our expenses toward putting on these rallies.
[Collection is taken.]
* * *
[Question: about John Brown]
Malcolm X: Brother, yes, I understand what you’re saying, I think. There’s an old African proverb which I find most enlightening, which says that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. As long as there’s a lion coming after me, if I’m throwing stones at it and you’re throwing chickens at it and someone else is throwing something else at it, as long as everybody else throws something at it, as far as I’m concerned they’re all right with me, at least at this time. And if things change, then things will change. If the situation changes, everything changes. But as long as they’re throwing something at the lion, we say good. This doesn’t mean that you always trust your allies. But as long as they want to ally themselves against the same one that you’re fighting against, watch them and let them go ahead and fight against it. Yes, sir?
Question: Are there any fallout shelters in Harlem?
Malcolm X: Brother, if anything ever happens where you need a fallout shelter, a fallout shelter won’t do you any good. When things get that bad, a fallout shelter won’t do you any good. When things get that bad, forget it. And they are heading in that direction. Yes, sir?
Question: Brother teacher, must we utilize John Brown as a friend of the black man?
Malcolm X: No, I don’t say he was a friend of the black man. I use it to give you an example of how to test the white man who says he’s your friend. Let him go down with some action similar to John Brown’s. If he’s willing to die for you and all of that, then let him go ahead and do it.
Question: (about other whites who had been friendly to the Negro)
Malcolm X: You said they were friendly, but you didn’t say they were friends. There’s a difference.
Question: Well, they didn’t give their life but they did great things to help.
Malcolm X: Whatever good they did, good. But we don’t have to blow the bugle for any of them. We don’t have to blow the bugle. Look, I’ve got an example. Some of them have died right now in Mississippi to try and change the situation. We still don’t need to blow the bugle because the situation is there. We don’t blow any bugles until the war’s over. All the dying that they do is for naught if the situation remains the same. Some of us get too happy at an opportunity to find good white folks. Whatever good they do, good. If you want to use it as an example, good. But don’t blow the bugle over it. And any time you find white people who help you just so you can say you’re a good white man, no. Yes, ma’am?
Question: Where can you join the bullet campaign?
Malcolm X: Just join the Organization of Afro-American Unity. If you’re interested in action, the Organization of Afro-American Unity has departments for any kind of action you want. If you want ballot action, we have that political department. If you want business action, we have a department that you can get involved in that will enable you to show us how to develop businesses and solve some of our economic problems. If you’re interested in the cultural department, we have that. If you’re interested in other departments, we also have them. Some of them we don’t list publicly.
But I might point out you would be very surprised and encouraged to know how many of our people there are who are ready and willing to become involved actively in any kind of physical campaign designed to bring about an end to the Klan and these other racists who have been brutalizing our people. You have black people, we’ve had over 400 of them who have telephoned just within the past week to find out when you’re going, saying count me in. Yes, sir?
Question: (says there is also a Negro city councilman from Brooklyn)
Malcolm X: Very good, brother. I’m sorry they didn’t give me that information. So that means there are two out of twenty-five. And they’re so quiet we never even heard their names. Why, don’t you know when a black man goes downtown and represents us, he’s supposed to be like Powell? Powell’s the loudest thing in this country. That’s why they don’t like him. They don’t dislike him because he goes to Europe, because they go to Europe. All that other stuff that they say about him, they’re not against him because of that. They’re against him because he’s loud. And in the history of this country polite black people have never been successful in bringing about any kind of advantages for black people. You have to walk in with a hand grenade and tell the man, listen, you give us what we’ve got coming or nobody is going to get anything. Then he might listen to you. But if you go in there polite and acting responsible and sane, why, you’re wasting your time, you have to be insane. Yes, brother?
Question: Brother Malcolm, do you think it’s wise that we should make it publicly known that possibly guerrillas are going to Mississippi or other places so the white man can be prepared?
Malcolm X: He’s already prepared, brother. He’s already prepared. Sometimes it is good. If the United States government doesn’t want you and me going into Mississippi organizing our people into the type of units that will enable them to retaliate against the Ku Klux Klan and create a very nasty situation in this country for the whole world to see, then the government should occupy the state of Mississippi.
Question: Well, don’t you think the element of surprise would be better able to get the same thing done?
Malcolm X: Before the Chinese came across the Yalu during the Korean war, they told Uncle Sam, don’t come another step, or else we’re going to do such and such a thing. They were so confident in their ability to take on anything Sam had, they said don’t come another step or we’re going to do thus and so. Brother, let me tell you about a Klansman. He’s a coward. He can be thoroughly organized and if you go like that [stamps his foot], he’ll cut out. That’s why they’re hiding beneath those sheets. You never read where a Klansman does anything, you read where the mob does so and so. Because they’re cowards.
Any time you get black people to take a stand against those sheeted so-called knights, you’ll get rid of them overnight. And I for one would announce yes, we are doing it, and get some black people and go on down there. And I don’t think we’d be the loser, no. In fact, I know we wouldn’t. We’ve got black people in Mississippi right now who are already ready. They are already ready, they are sitting there waiting. The white man is finding out they’ve authorized it a long time ago. They’re waiting for someone to let them know that it’s all right. See, the preacher has been telling them that it’s not all right. And once you make it known that it’s all right to fight to defend yourself, that it’s your right, that you are justified in returning bullet for bullet with a racist organization like the Klan. Let them know it, you won’t even have to go down there. There’s enough of them there to do it themselves. But you want to be in on the action. I’m telling you, Harlem is full of our people who want to go down there. Some of them come from down there. Yes, sir?
Question: Brother Malcolm, I was reading the Amsterdam News on the way to this meeting. And they have an article in there that says Malcolm X offers his assistance to CORE and these other supposedly nonviolent organizations. In this article they said that they were considering your offer but they hadn’t made any comment about it yet. I’d like for you to read the article.
Malcolm X: We don’t have time to read the whole article. We’re glad you gave the Amsterdam News a plug. And tell them that you gave them a plug so they’ll mention in their next week’s edition that we’re going to have a rally next Sunday. We sent a telegram to the Student Nonviolent Committee in Mississippi, telling them that if the federal government won’t protect the lives and the property of our people that we would send some brothers down there who knew how to organize our people into self-defense units that would show our people how to speak the only language that the Klan understands. And the only language they understand is the language of force. I’m telling you: anytime you lay a few Klansmen out, dead, the government will step in.
Now, am I supposed to be charged with advocating violence? Let me show you what a rotten system this is. They’ll walk out of here and say I’m advocating violence. They won’t say that the Klan is practicing violence, they won’t say that the White Citizens Council is practicing violence, they won’t say that the United States government is condoning violence. All they’ll do is walk out and say we are advocating violence. You’re living in a rotten system. No, we should declare open season on Klansmen, open season. Let it be known. Yes, ma’am.
Question: How can you register as an independent when there’s no independent party?
Malcolm X: A person can register as an independent voter and then vote any way they want. No, I’m not speaking of an independent party. I’m speaking of a person registering as an independent voter, meaning that you’re not committed to any party.
Question: What can the people who are already registered Democrat or Republican do? You talk about those who should register. But what about those who are registered as Democrats or Republicans?
Malcolm X: You have no problem. You can easily become an independent registered voter. If you were a Democrat, you could become a Republican, couldn’t you? If you were a Republican, you could change your party affiliation to Democrat.
Question: But if I am registered as a Democrat, what should I do?
Malcolm X: Get with the rest of the independent voters. All I’m trying to show you is that we need a collective body of registered voters who are not committed to any party and not committed to any man until we find out what we’re going to achieve from that commitment, some positive results from that commitment.
Question: But how can you un-commit yourself?
Malcolm X: If you’re already committed? We’ll look into it and let you know next week. And that’s one of the reasons why we have a political committee, which we feel will have the type of political know-how to steer us around any problem that we’re confronted by. It’s best to be uncommitted. A black man that’s committed is out of his mind. Be uncommitted. Because you haven’t thrown a punch doesn’t mean you can’t throw it. I’d say as long as you haven’t thrown it, you’ve always got one to throw. Yes, ma’ am?
Question: Brother Malcolm, just a comment: all we have to know is what Adam Powell has been doing the past few years.
Malcolm X: He jumped from party to party, didn’t he? But we want to give an explanation so that it will be clarified. We can best give you one by having our committee that has that responsibility get that information. And at our meeting next Sunday night we’ll have that. Yes, ma’ am?
Question: (about getting an appointment to discuss a problem)
Malcolm X: You can get it right at the Theresa office. Make it through the secretary there. I don’t run from people. But the reason that I never make far-in-advance appointments is because I don’t want a situation to ever come up where I have to stand somebody up. Right now, things are pretty hot for me, you know. Oh, yes. I’m trying to stay alive, you understand. I may sound like I’m cracking, but I’m facting. I’ve been hinting for two months what it was all about and some people thought I was crazy. But some of it’s beginning to come out now. And the white press didn’t bring it out. They sat on it because they didn’t want that thing to crumble. Any time they find that something is putting black people in a vise, they want that thing to exist. If you notice, anything as a rule that is written up—again, like the Journal American did last Sunday; they said that we had 600 people out here. See, they’re chronic liars. And they said what an overwhelming victory was scored by Elijah Muhammad.
Well, you know, I hate to get on this subject. You all will forgive me if I do. But they said that they expected 500,000 at the Armory. And if they had 10,000, why, good night, they’re still 490,000 short, unless their public relations man made a typographical error when he was putting out the press release. So I don’t call that any kind of victory. But they like to use us one against the other. That’s really what they’re trying to do. And sometimes you find us, we’re dumb enough to let ourselves be used one against the other. So, the secretary there at the office in the Theresa will set that up. There, ‘way in the back.
Question: You once stated that the only solution for the so-called Negro was ultimately to return to Africa. Then at the last meeting, you said we should turn to Africa culturally and spiritually, but politically should stay in this country.
Malcolm X: Hold it right there. The first statement that I made, I made before going to Africa myself. I spent about five weeks over there speaking to every kind of African leader that I could gain access to. And the net result of that trip was that if our people go, they’re welcome. But those who are politically mature over there say that we would be wiser to play a role at this time right here. If we want to go back, we’re welcome, but what we do should be for the good of the whole, not for the few. Any time you restore cultural or spiritual bonds between our people here and our people there, then we begin to work together. Right now, someone is needed right here to do some work for the whole. And you and I are in the best position to do it.
Question: (remarks not audible)
Malcolm X: Brother, if all of us wanted to go back to Africa—you wouldn’t be satisfied to go back all by yourself, I know that. Your desire would be to see all of us go back if I am judging you correctly. Then how would you create a situation, number one, that would make all of us black-minded enough to want to go back, or make all of us have a thorough enough knowledge of what it is like over there to want to go back, or like this man so fed up with us he’d want to send us there? How would you go about doing it? How would you go about getting 22 million people to go to a place that they think is a rotten, insect-infested jungle? How would you go about getting them to go back when they cringe when you use the word African or Africa? What strategy would you use? Or else you’d end up going back by yourself.
Don’t you know you’ve got some nationalists right here that aren’t ready to go back? They’ll talk that talk, I mean talk that talk, but when it comes to taking some concrete action, that’s just talk. Well, let’s face reality. Our people have to be brought up to the point where we have sufficient understanding of the assets that are due us if we do go back. And as long you can’t get 22 million people to that level or to that point, then while you are trying to point them in that direction, you have to at the same time have some kind of program which will enable them to take the maximum advantage of every opportunity that exists here.
I want to go back to Africa. But what can I do while I’m waiting to go? Go hungry? Live in a rat-infested slum? Send my children to a school where their brains are being crippled? No, if we are going to go but time is going to pass between now and our going, then we have to have a long-range program and a short-range program, one that is designed to turn us in that direction, but at the same time one that is designed to enable us to take maximum advantage of every opportunity under this roof where we are right now. One more question—yes, sir?
Question: What will be the attitude of this organization toward American intervention in Africa?
Malcolm X: The brother wants to know what will be the attitude of this organization in regards to American intervention in Africa. By that you’re probably referring to recently, when they bombed our Congolese brothers, when American pilots bombed our brothers in the Congo. Why, that was worse than what the Italians did to our brothers in Ethiopia.
Any time these kinds of things take place, you and I should be organized in such a way that the American government will think a long time before it takes any steps towards dropping bombs on Africans who are our brothers and sisters. This is why we must organize. But this handful of people here means nothing. We have to organize ourselves and then organize the city and then organize the state and then organize the country. Once you do this, the government is not going to intervene in Africa.
Walking downtown with a sign saying we protest what you did in the Congo means nothing if you’re not organized. We have to organize house by house, street by street, city by city, state by state, every black man of African descent in the Western Hemisphere. And then you and I can stop the acts of atrocity not only in Mississippi, but also in the Congo. But first you have to organize. Coming to these meetings is not organization. After coming, go back and take out a membership so that we can get organized, and so at these membership meetings we can then tell you how you can help us organize others. And if those organize others and those organize others, the first thing you know we’ll have this city organized. Then you can act.
Other than that, everything is premature, it is actually premature. You protest, you feel good, your chest is out. But what do you get? Nothing. Because, brothers, the man studies all these actions before he makes his move. When you see them intervening in the Congo and then have nerve enough to tell the press, so that they’ll tell the American public—proof of which, name me a Negro paper that protested. Name a Negro—I use the word Negro now on purpose—name a Negro organization that protested. Name a Negro leader that protested. The State Department knew in advance what it was doing. They’re not worried about those organizations, or those leaders. But this handful of people means nothing. What you and I have to do is organize, organize every black face you can find. And I’ll guarantee you that they’ll know in advance if we’re organized, before they make any move in the Congo or anywhere else.
But one of the worst slaps in the face that the black man in this country has received was when the State Department had the audacity last week to admit that American pilots were bombing defenseless Africans in the Congo. And not one outcry was made among our people. The Negro leaders are too busy talking about rowdyism on the subways. Pick up on that. Rowdyism among Negroes on the subway, and black people are being torn from limb to limb by American bombs dropped daily American pilots from American planes.