This week on Black Perspectives, we mark the 52nd anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination with a week-long forum, “Remembering Malcolm,” on his life, and legacy, and the significance of his ideas for continuing struggles for racial justice and human rights. Certainly, Malcolm is important for his unwavering and incisive critiques of anti-black racism in its many forms: from northern liberalism to southern segregation to European colonialism. He spoke truth to power with a plainness which was unparalleled in his time. As Ossie Davis recalled: “He scared me. I’m sure he intended to.” But remembering and honoring Malcolm is also important because it offers a gateway into the world of black intellectual theory and praxis that he inhabited and enriched.

Perhaps no figure in the 20th-century brings together a more diverse and illustrious cohort of thinkers and activists. As Ashley Farmer has pointed out, just the list of women mentors and comrades alone brings forth figures such as “Queen Mother” Audley Moore, Ana Livia Cordero, Yuri Kochiyama, Gloria Richardson, Grace Lee Boggs, Mae Mallory, Maya Angelou, and Shirley Graham Du Bois. Following the death of Fidel Castro, I recounted Malcolm’s visit not only with the Cuban revolutionary in Harlem in the fall of 1960, but also Kwame Nkrumah and Gamal Abdel Nasser. At an OAAU rally just months before his death, he read a message of support from Che Guevara before introducing Abdul Rahman Muhammad Babu of Tanzania, Sheik Ahmed Hassoun of the Sudan, and comedian Dick Gregory. He wrote letters of encouragement to college students wanting to form campus chapters of the Nation of Islam and urged heads of state to denounce the United States before the United Nations. He testified on behalf of Muslim prisoners and sat ringside in Miami as Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston and emerged to the world as Muhammad Ali.

As Alex Haley struggled to finish writing The Autobiography of Malcolm X–while Malcolm made Hajj and wrote back of his broadening views while traveling through Africa–Haley excitedly began another manuscript entitled Before This Anger, which would eventually become Roots. Malcolm, therefore, is a window into the global black freedom struggle in its variegated and contoured forms. By remembering, studying, and disseminating knowledge about his life and ideas, we do justice to Black History.

Over the next few days, we will feature essays from a diverse group of scholars–Zaheer Ali (Brooklyn Historical Society), Garrett Felber (University of Michigan), Laura Warren Hill (Bloomfield College), Ibram X. Kendi (University of Florida), Alaina Morgan (New York University), Amy A. Ongiri (Lawrence University), and Russell Rickford (Cornell University)–offering insights on the lasting influence and significance of Malcolm’s ideas for current political movements in the United States and abroad. We are also excited to feature an interview with Erik S. McDuffie (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on his new article on the life, activism, and legacy of Malcolm X’s mother, Louise Langdon Norton Little. For more context and readings on Malcolm X, we offer the following reading list.

Critical Conversations on Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
Malcolm X and Garveyism
Women and the Nation of Islam
Gender and Black Nationalism
Black Nationalism
The Nation of Islam
Malcolm X and Islam
The Nation of Islam and Prison Activism
Malcolm X Speaks
Malcolm X, the NOI, and Grassroots Organizing
The Assassination of Malcolm X
Research Resources
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Garrett Felber

Garrett Felber is a scholar of 20th-century African American history. He earned a PhD at the University of Michigan in the American Culture Department. His scholarship has been published in the Journal of African American History, South African Music Studies, and SOULS. He has also contributed to Boston Review, The Guardian, The Marshall Project, and Viewpoint Magazine. He is the co-author with Manning Marable of The Portable Malcolm X Reader. Follow him on Twitter @garrett_felber.

Comments on “Remembering Malcolm

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    Listen to a 1964 interview with Malcolm X (and other U.S. civil rights leaders) conducted by Robert Penn Warren here:

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