In the spring of nineteen fifty-nine-some months before Brother Johnson Hinton’s case had awakened the Harlem black ghetto to us-a Negro journalist, Louis Lomax, then living in New York, asked me one morning whether our Nation of Islam would cooperate in being filmed as a television documentary program for the Mike Wallace Show, which featured controversial subjects. I told Lomax that, naturally, anything like that would have to be referred to The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. And Lomax did fly to Chicago to consult Mr. Muhammad. After questioning Lomax, then cautioning him against some thingshe did not desire, Mr. Muhammad gave his consent.
Cameramen began filming Nation of Islam scenes around our mosques in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D. C. Sound recordings were made of Mr. Muhammad and some ministers, including me, teaching black audiences the truths about the brainwashed black man and the devil white man.
At Boston University around the same time, C. Eric Lincoln, a Negro scholar then working for his doctorate, had selected for his thesis subject the Nation of Islam. Lincoln’s interest had been aroused the previous year when, teaching at Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia, he received from one of his Religion students a term paper whose introduction I can now quote from Lincoln’s book. It was the plainspoken convictions of one of Atlanta’s numerous young black collegians who often visited our local Temple Fifteen.
“The Christian religion is incompatible with the Negro’s aspirations for dignity and equality in America,” the student had written. “It has hindered where it might have helped; it has been evasive when it was morally bound to be forthright; it has separated believers on the basis of color, although it has declared its mission to be a universal brotherhood under Jesus Christ. Christian love is the white man’s love for himself and for his race. For the man who is not white, Islam is the hope for justice and equality in the world we must build tomorrow.”
After some preliminary research showed Professor Lincoln what a subject he had hold of, he had been able to obtain several grants, and a publisher’s encouragement to expand his thesis into a book.
On the wire of our relatively small Nation, these two big developments-a television show, and a book about us-naturally were big news. Every Muslim happily anticipated that now, through the white man’s powerful communicationsmedia, our brainwashed black brothers and sisters across the United States, and devils, too, were going to see, hear, and read Mr. Muhammad’s teachings which cut back and forth like a two-edged sword.
We had made our own very limited efforts to employ the power of print. First, some time back, I had made an appointment to see editor James Hicks of the _Amsterdam News_, published in Harlem. Editor Hicks said he felt every voice in the community deserved to be heard. Soon, each week’s _Amsterdam News_ carried a little column that I wrote. Then, Mr. Muhammad agreed to write a column for that valuable _Amsterdam News_ space, and my column was transferred to another black newspaper, the Los Angeles _Herald Dispatch_.
But I kept wanting to start, somehow, our own newspaper, that would be filled with Nation of Islam news.
Mr. Muhammad in 1957 sent me to organize a Temple in Los Angeles. When I had done that, being in that city where the _Herald Dispatch_ was, I went visiting and I worked in their office; they let me observe how a newspaper was put together. I’ve always been blessed in that if I can once watch something being done, generally I can catch onto how to do it myself. Quick “picking up” was probably the number one survival rule when I’d been out there in the streets as a hustler.
Back in New York, I bought a secondhand camera. I don’t know how many rolls of film I shot until I could take usable pictures. Every chance I had, I wrote some little news about interesting Nation of Islam happenings. One day every month, I’d lock up in a room and assemble my material and pictures for a printer that I found. I named the newspaper _Muhammad Speaks_ and Muslim brothers sold it on the ghetto sidewalks. Little did I dream that later on, when jealousy set in among the hierarchy, nothing about me would be printed in the paper I had founded. Anyway, national publicity was in the offing for the Nation of Islam when Mr. Muhammad sent me on a three-week trip to Africa. Even as small as we then were, some of the African and Asian personages had sent Mr. Muhammad private word that they liked his efforts to awaken and lift up the American black people. Sometimes, the messages had been sent through me. As Mr. Muhammad’s emissary, I went to Egypt, Arabia, to the Sudan, to Nigeria, and Ghana.
You will often hear today a lot of the Negro leaders complaining that what thrust the Muslims into international prominence was the white man’s press, radio, television, and other media. I have no shred of argument with that. They are absolutely correct. Why, none of us in the Nation of Islam remotely anticipated what was about to happen.
* * *
In late 1959, the television program was aired. “The Hate That Hate Produced”-the title-was edited tightly into a kaleidoscope of “shocker” images . . . Mr. Muhammad, me, and others speaking . . . strong-looking, set-faced black men, our Fruit of Islam . . . white-scarved, white-gowned Muslim sisters of all ages. . . Muslims in our restaurants, and other businesses . . . Muslims and other black people entering and leaving our mosques . . . .
Every phrase was edited to increase the shock mood. As the producers intended, I think people sat just about limp when the program went off.
In a way, the public reaction was like what happened back in the 1930’s when Orson Welles frightened America with a radio program describing, as though it was actually happening, an invasion by “men from Mars.”
No one now jumped from any windows, but in New York City there was aninstant avalanche of public reaction. It’s my personal opinion that the “Hate . . . Hate . . .” title was primarily responsible for the reaction. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, black and white, were exclaiming “Did you hear it? Did you see it? Preaching _hate_ of white people!”
Here was one of the white man’s most characteristic behavior patterns-where black men are concerned. He loves himself so much that he is startled if he discovers that his victims don’t share his vainglorious self-opinion. In America for centuries it had been just fine as long as the victimized, brutalized and exploited black people had been grinning and begging and “Yessa, Massa” and Uncle Tomming. But now, things were different. First came the white newspapers-feature writers and columnists: “Alarming” . . .”hate-messengers” . . .”threat to the good relations between the races” . . .”black segregationists” . . .”black supremacists,” and the like.
And the newspapers’ ink wasn’t dry before the big national weekly news magazines started: “Hate-teachers” . . .”violence-seekers” . . .”black racists” . . .”black fascists” . . .”anti-Christian” . . . “possibly Communist-inspired . . . .”
It rolled out of the presses of the biggest devil in the history of mankind. And then the aroused white man made his next move.
Since slavery, the American white man has always kept some handpicked Negroes who fared much better than the black masses suffering and slaving out in the hot fields. The white man had these “house” and “yard” Negroes for his special servants. He threw them more crumbs from his rich table, he even let them eat in his kitchen. He knew that he could always count on them to keep “good massa” happy in his self-image of being so “good” and “righteous.” “Good massa” always heard just what he wanted to hear from these “house” and “yard” blacks. “You’re such a good, _fine_ massa!” Or, “Oh, massa, those old black nigger fieldhands out there, they’re happy just like they are; why, massa, they’renot intelligent enough for you to try and do any better for them, massa-”
Well, slavery time’s “house” and “yard” Negroes had become more sophisticated, that was all. When now the white man picked up his telephone and dialed his “house” and “yard” Negroes-why, he didn’t even need to instruct the trained black puppets. They had seen the television program; had read the newspapers. They were already composing their lines. They knew what to do.
I’m not going to call any names. But if you make a list of the biggest Negro “leaders,” so-called, in 1960, then you’ve named the ones who began to attack us “field” Negroes who were sounding _insane_, talking that way about “good massa.”
“By no means do these Muslims represent the Negro masses-” That was the first worry, to reassure “good massa” that he had no reason to be concerned about his fieldhands in the ghettoes. “An irresponsible hate cult” . . .”an unfortunate Negro image, just when the racial picture is improving-”
They were stumbling over each other to get quoted. “A deplorable reverse-racism” . . .”Ridiculous pretenders to the ancient Islamic doctrine” . . .”Heretic anti-Christianity-‘
The telephone in our then small Temple Seven restaurant nearly jumped off the wall. I had a receiver against my ear five hours a day. I was listening, and jotting in my notebook, as press, radio, and television people called, all of them wanting the Muslim reaction to the quoted attacks of these black “leaders.” Or I was on long-distance to Mr. Muhammad in Chicago, reading from my notebook and asking for Mr. Muhammad’s instructions.
I couldn’t understand how Mr. Muhammad could maintain his calm and patience, hearing the things I told him. I could scarcely contain myself. My unlisted home telephone number somehow got out. My wife Betty put down the phone after taking one message, and it was ringing again. It seemed that wherever I went, telephones were ringing.
The calls naturally were directed to me, New York City being the major news-media headquarters, and I was the New York minister of Mr. Muhammad. Calls came, long-distance from San Francisco to Maine . . . from even London, Stockholm, Paris. I would see a Muslim brother at our restaurant, or Betty at home, trying to keep cool; they’d hand me the receiver, and I couldn’t believe it, either. One funny thing-in all that hectic period, something quickly struck my notice: the Europeans never pressed the “hate” question. Only the American white man was so plagued and obsessed with being “hated.” He was so guilty, it was clear to me, of hating Negroes.
“Mr. Malcolm X, why do you teach black supremacy, and hate?” A red flag waved for me, something chemical happened inside me, every time I heard that. When we Muslims had talked about “the devil white man” he had been relatively abstract, someone we Muslims rarely actually came into contact with, but now here was that devil-in-the-flesh on the phone-with all of his calculating, cold-eyed, self-righteous tricks and nerve and gall. The voices questioning me became to me as breathing, living devils.
And I tried to pour on pure fire in return. “The white man so guilty of white supremacy can’t hide _his_ guilt by trying to accuse The Honorable Elijah Muhammad of teaching black supremacy and hate! All Mr. Muhammad is doing is trying to uplift the black man’s mentality and the black man’s social and economic condition in this country.
“The guilty, two-faced white man can’t decide what he wants. Our slave foreparents would have been put to death for advocating so-called ‘integration’with the white man. Now when Mr. Muhammad speaks of ‘separation,’ the white man calls us ‘hate-teachers’ and ‘fascists’!
“The white man doesn’t _want_ the blacks! He doesn’t _want_ the blacks that are a parasite upon him! He doesn’t _want_ this black man whose presence and condition in this country expose the white man to the world for what he is! So why do you attack Mr. Muhammad?”
I’d have _scathing_ in my voice; I _felt_ it.
“For the white man to ask the black man if he hates him is just like the rapist asking the _raped_, or the wolf asking the _sheep_, ‘Do you hate me?’ The white man is in no moral _position_ to accuse anyone else of hate!
“Why, when all of my ancestors are snake-bitten, and I’m snake-bitten, and I warn my children to avoid snakes, what does that snake sound like accusing _me_ of hate-teaching?”
“Mr. Malcolm X,” those devils would ask, “why is your Fruit of Islam being trained in judo and karate?” An image of black men learning anything suggesting self-defense seemed to terrify the white man. I’d turn their question around: “Why does judo or karate suddenly get so ominous because black men study it? Across America, the Boy Scouts, the YMCA, even the YWCA, the CYP, PAL-they _all_ teach judo! It’s all right, it’s
fine-until _black men_ teach it! Even little grammar school classes, little girls, are taught to defend themselves-” “How many of you are in your organization, Mr. Malcolm X? Right Reverend Bishop T. Chickenwing says you have only a handful of members-”
“Whoever tells you how many Muslims there are doesn’t know, and whoever does know will never tell you-”
The Bishop Chickenwings were also often quoted about our “anti-Christianity.” I’d fire right back on that:
“Christianity is the white man’s religion. The Holy Bible in the white man’s hands and his interpretations of it have been the greatest single ideological weapon for enslaving millions of non-white human beings. Every country the white man has conquered with his guns, he has always paved the way, and salved his conscience, by carrying the Bible and interpreting it to call the people ‘heathens’ and ‘pagans’; then he sends his guns, then his missionaries behind the guns to mop up-”
White reporters, anger in their voices, would call us “demagogues,” and I would try to be ready after I had been asked the same question two or three times.
“Well, let’s go back to the Greek, and maybe you will learn the first thing you need to know about the word ‘demagogue.’ ‘Demagogue’ means, actually, ‘teacher of the people.’ And let’s examine some demagogues. The greatest of all Greeks, Socrates, was killed as a ‘demagogue.’ Jesus Christ died on the cross because the Pharisees of His day were upholding their law, not the spirit. The modern Pharisees are trying to heap destruction upon Mr. Muhammad, calling him a demagogue, a crackpot, and fanatic. What about Gandhi? The man that Churchill called ‘a naked little fakir,’ refusing food in a British jail? But then a quarter of a billion people, a whole subcontinent, rallied behind Gandhi-and they twisted the British lion’s tail! What about Galileo, standing before his inquisitors, saying ‘The earth _does_ move!’ What about Martin Luther, nailing on a door his thesis against the all-powerful Catholic church which called him ‘heretic’? We, the followers of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, are today inthe ghettoes as once the sect of Christianity’s followers were like termites in the catacombs and the grottoes-and they were preparing the grave of the mighty Roman Empire!”
I can remember those hot telephone sessions with those reporters as if it were yesterday. The reporters were angry. I was angry. When I’d reach into history, they’d try to pull me back to the present. They would quit interviewing, quit their work, trying to defend their personal white devil selves. They would unearth Lincoln and his freeing of the slaves. I’d tell them things Lincoln said in speeches, _against_ the blacks. They would drag up the 1954 Supreme Court decision on school integration.
“That was one of the greatest magical feats ever performed in America,” I’d tell them. “Do you mean to tell me that nine Supreme Court judges, who are past masters of legal phraseology, couldn’t have worked their decision to make it stick as _law_? No! It was trickery and magic that told Negroes they were desegregated-Hooray! Hooray!-and at the same time it told whites ‘Here are your loopholes.'”
The reporters would try their utmost to raise some “good” white man whom I couldn’t refute as such. I’ll never forget how one practically lost his voice. He asked me did I feel _any_ white men had ever done anything for the black man in America. I told him, “Yes, I can think of two. Hitler, and Stalin. The black man in America couldn’t get a decent factory job until Hitler put so much pressure on the white man. And men Stalin kept up the pressure-‘
But I don’t care what points I made in the interviews, it practically never got printed the way I said it. I was learning under fire how the press, when it wants to, can twist, and slant. If I had said “Mary had a little lamb,” what probably would have appeared was “Malcolm X Lampoons Mary.”
Even so, my bitterness was less against the white press than it was against those Negro “leaders” who kept attacking us. Mr. Muhammad said he wanted us to try our best not to publicly counterattack the black “leaders” because one of the white man’s tricks was keeping the black race divided and fighting against each other. Mr. Muhammad said that this had traditionally kept the black people from achieving the unity which was the worst need of the black race in America.
But instead of abating, the black puppets continued ripping and tearing at Mr. Muhammad and the Nation of Islam-until it began to appear as though we were afraid to speak out against these “important” Negroes. That’s when Mr. Muhammad’s patience wore thin. And with his nod, I began returning their fire.
“Today’s Uncle Tom doesn’t wear a handkerchief on his head. This modern, twentieth-century Uncle Thomas now often wears a top hat. He’s usually well-dressed and well-educated. He’s often the personification of culture and refinement. The twentieth-century Uncle Thomas sometimes speaks With a Yale or Harvard accent. Sometimes he is known as Professor, Doctor, Judge, and Reverend, even Right Reverend Doctor. This twentieth-century Uncle Thomas is a _professional_ Negro . . . by that I mean his profession is being a Negro for the white man.”
Never before in America had these hand-picked so-called “leaders” been publicly blasted in this way. They reacted to the truth about themselves even more hotly than the devilish white man. Now their “institutional” indictments of us began. Instead of “leaders” speaking as themselves, for themselves, now their weighty name organizations attacked Mr. Muhammad.
“Black bodies with white heads!” I called them what they were. Every one of those “Negro progress” organizations had the same composition. Black “leaders”were out in the public eye-to be seen by the Negroes for whom they were supposed to be fighting the white man. But obscurely, behind the scenes, was a white boss-a president, or board chairman, or some other title, pulling the real strings.
It was hot, hot copy, both in the white and the black press. _Life_, _Look_, _Newsweek_ and _Time_ reported us. Some newspaper chains began to run not one story, but a series of three, four, or five “exposures” of the Nation of Islam. The _Reader’s Digest_ with its worldwide circulation of twenty-four million copies in thirteen languages carried an article titled “Mr. Muhammad Speaks,” by the writer to whom I am telling this book; and that led off other major monthly magazines’ coverage of us.
* * *
Before very long, radio and television people began asking me to defend our Nation of Islam in panel discussions and debates. I was to be confronted by hand-picked scholars both whites and some of those Ph.D. “house” and “yard” Negroes who had been attacking us. Every day, I was more incensed with the general misrepresentation and distortion of Mr. Muhammad’s teachings; I truly think that not once did it cross my mind that previously I never had been _inside_ a radio or television station-let alone faced a microphone to audiences of millions of people. Prison debating had been my only experience speaking to anyone but Muslims.
From the old hustling days I knew that there were tricks to everything. In the prison debating, I had learned tricks to upset my opponents, to catch them where they didn’t expect to be caught. I knew there were bound to be tricks I didn’t know anything about arguing on the air.
I knew that if I closely studied what the others did, I could learn things in ahurry to help me to defend Mr. Muhammad and his teachings.
I’d walk into those studios. The devils and black Ph.D. puppets would be acting so friendly and “integrated” with each other-laughing and calling each other by first names, and all that; it was such a big lie it made me sick in my stomach. They would even be trying to act friendly toward me-we all knowing they had asked me there to try and beat out my brains. They would offer me coffee. I would tell them “No, thanks,” to please just tell me where was I supposed to sit. Sometimes the microphone sat on the table before you, at other times a smaller, cylindrical microphone was hung on a cord around your neck. From the start, I liked those microphones better; I didn’t have to keep constantly aware of my distance from a microphone on the table.
The program hosts would start with some kind of dice-loading, non-religious introduction for me. It would be something like
-and we have with us today the fiery, angry chief Malcolm X of the New York Muslims. . . .” I made up my own introduction. At home, or driving my car, I practiced until I could interrupt a radio or television host and introduce myself.
“I represent Mr. Elijah Muhammad, the spiritual head of the fastest-growing group of Muslims in the Western Hemisphere. We who follow him know that he has been divinely taught and sent to us by God Himself. We believe that the miserable plight of America’s twenty million black people is the fulfillment of divine prophecy. We also believe the presence today in America of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, his teachings among the so-called Negroes, and his naked warning to America concerning her treatment of these so-called Negroes, is all the fulfillment of divine prophecy. I am privileged to be the minister of our
Temple Number Seven here in New York City which is a part of the Nation ofIslam, under the divine leadership of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad-”
I would look around at those devils and their trained black parrots staring at me, while I was catching my breath-and I had set my tone.
They would outdo each other, leaping in on me, hammering at Mr. Muhammad, at me, and at the Nation of Islam. Those “integration”-mad Negroes-you know what they jumped on. _Why_ couldn’t Muslims _see_ that “integration” was the answer to American Negroes’ problems? I’d try to rip that to pieces.
“No _sane_ black man really wants integration! No _sane_ white man really wants integration! No sane black man really believes that the white man ever will give the black man anything more than token integration. No! The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches that for the black man in America the only solution is complete _separation_ from the white man!”
Anyone who has ever heard me on radio or television programs knows that my technique is nonstop, until what I want to get said is said. I was developing the technique then.
“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that since Western society is deteriorating, it has become overrun with immorality, and God is going to judge it, and destroy it. And the only way the black people caught up in this society can be saved is not to _integrate_ into this corrupt society, but to _separate_ from it, to a land of our _own_, where we can reform ourselves, lift up our moral standards, and try to be godly. The Western world’s most learned diplomats have failed to solve this grave race problem. Her learned legal experts have failed. Her sociologists have failed. Her civil leaders have failed. Her fraternal leaders have failed. Since all of these have _failed_ to solve this race problem, it is time for us to sit down and _reason!_ I am certain that we will be forced to agree that it takes _God Himself_ to solve this grave racial dilemma.” Every time I mentioned “separation,” some of them would cry that we Muslims were standing for the same thing that white racists and demagogues stood for. I would explain the difference. “No! We reject _segregation_ even more militantly than you say you do! We want _separation_, which is not the same! The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that _segregation_ is when your life and liberty are controlled, regulated, _by someone else_. To _segregate_ means to control. Segregation is that which is forced upon inferiors by superiors. But _separation_ is that which is done voluntarily, by two equals-for the good of both! The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that as long as our people here in America are dependent upon the white man, we will always be begging him for jobs, food, clothing, and housing. And he will always control our lives, regulate our lives, and have the power to segregate us. The Negro here in America has been treated like a child. A child stays within the mother until the time of birth! When the time of birth arrives, the child must be separated, or it will _destroy_ its mother and itself. The mother can’t carry that child after its time. The child cries for and needs its own world!”
Anyone who has listened to me will have to agree that I believed in Elijah Muhammad and represented him one hundred per cent. I never tried to take any credit for myself.
I was never in one of those panel discussions without some of them just waiting their chance to accuse me of “inciting Negroes to violence.” I didn’t even have to do any special studying to prepare for that one.
“The greatest miracle Christianity has achieved in America is that the black man in white Christian hands has not grown violent. It _is_ a miracle that 22 million black people have not _risen up_ against their oppressors-in which they would have been justified by all moral criteria, and even by the democratic tradition! It is a miracle that a nation of black people has so fervently continued to believe in a turn-the-other-cheek and heaven-for-you-after-you-die philosophy! It _is a miracle_ that the American black people have remained a peaceful people, while catching all the centuries of hell that they have caught, here in white man’s heaven! The _miracle_ is that the white man’s puppet Negro ‘leaders,’ his preachers and the educated Negroes laden with degrees, and others who have been allowed to wax fat off their black poor brothers, have been able to hold the black masses quiet until now.”
I guarantee you one thing-every time I was mixed up in those studios with those brainwashed, “integration”-mad black puppets, and those tricky devils trying to rip and tear me down, as long as the little red light glowed “on the air,” I tried to represent Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam to the utmost.
Dr. C. Eric Lincoln’s book was published amid widening controversy about us Muslims, at just about the time we were starting to put on our first big mass rallies.
Just as the television “Hate That Hate Produced” title had projected that “hate-teaching” image of us, now Dr. Lincoln’s book was titled _The Black Muslims in America_. The press snatched at that name. “Black Muslims” was in all the book reviews, which quoted from the book only what was critical of us, and generally praised Dr. Lincoln’s writing.
The public mind fixed on “Black Muslims.” From Mr. Muhammad on down, the name “Black Muslims” distressed everyone in the Nation of Islam. I tried for at least two years to kill off that “Black Muslims.” Every newspaper and magazine writer and microphone I got close to: “_No!_ We are black _people_ here in America. Our _religion_ is Islam. We are properly called ‘Muslims’!” But that “Black Muslims” name never got dislodged.Our mass rallies, from their very beginning, were astounding successes. Where once Detroit’s struggling little Temple One proudly sent a ten-automobile caravan to Chicago to hear Mr. Muhammad, now, from East Coast Temples-the older Temples as well as the new ones that all of the massive publicity had helped us to bring into being-as many as 150, 200 and even as many as 300 big, chartered buses rolled the highways to wherever Mr. Muhammad was going to speak. On each bus, two Fruit of Islam men were in charge. Big three-by-nine-foot painted canvas banners hung on the buses’ sides, to be read by the highway traffic and thousands of people at home and on the sidewalks of the towns the buses passed through.
Hundreds more Muslims and curious Negroes drove their own cars. And Mr. Muhammad with his personal jet plane from Chicago. From the airport to the rally hall, Mr. Muhammad’s motorcade had a siren-screaming police escort. Law agencies once had scoffed at our Nation as “black crackpots”; now they took special pains to safeguard against some “white crackpots” causing any “incidents” or “accidents.”
America had never seen such fantastic all-black meetings! To hear Elijah Muhammad, up to ten thousand and more black people poured from public and private transportation to overflow the big halls we rented, such as the St. Nicholas Arena in New York City, Chicago’s Coliseum, and Washington, D.C. ‘s Uline Arena.
The white man was barred from attendance-the first time the American black man had ever dreamed of such a thing. And that brought us new attacks from the white man and his black puppets. “Black segregationists . . . racists!” Accusing us of segregation! Across America, whites barring blacks was standard.
Many hundreds arrived too late for us to seat them. We always had to wire up outside loudspeakers. An electric atmosphere excited the great, shifting massesof black people. The long lines, three and four abreast, funneling to the meeting hall, were kept in strict order by Fruit of Islam men communicating by walkie-talkie. In anterooms just inside the halls, more Fruit of Islam men and white-gowned, veiled mature Muslim sisters thoroughly searched every man, woman, and child seeking to enter. Any alcohol and tobacco had to be checked, and any objects which could possibly be used to attempt to harm Mr. Muhammad. He always seemed deathly afraid that some one would harm him, and he insisted that everyone be searched to forestall this. Today I understand better, why.
The hundreds of Fruit of Islam men represented contingents which had arrived early that morning, from their Temples in the nearest cities. Some were detailed as ushers, who seated the people by designated sections. The balconies and the rear half of the main floor were filled with black people of the general public. Ahead of them were the all-Muslim seating sections-the white-garbed beautiful black sisters, and the dark-suited, white-shirted brothers. A special section near the front was for black so-called “dignitaries.” Many of these had been invited. Among them were our black puppet and parrot attackers, the intellectuals and professional Negroes over whom Mr. Muhammad grieved so much, for these were the educated ones who should have been foremost in leading their poor black brothers out of the maze of misery and want. We wanted them to miss not a single syllable of the truths from Mr. Muhammad in person.
The front two or three press rows were filled with the black reporters and cameramen representing the Negro press, or those who had been hired by the white man’s newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. America’s black writers should hold a banquet for Mr. Muhammad. Writing about the Nation of Islam was the path to success for most of the black writers who now are recognized.
Up on the speaker’s platform, we ministers and other officials of the Nation, entering from backstage, found ourselves chairs in the five or six rows behind the big chair reserved for Mr. Muhammad. Some of the ministers had come hundreds of miles to be present. We would be turning about in our chairs, beaming with smiles, wringing each other’s hands, and exchanging “As-Salaam-Alaikum” and “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam” in our genuine deep rejoicing to see each other again.
Always, meeting us older hands in Mr. Muhammad’s service for the first time, there were several new ministers of small new Temples. My brothers Wilfred and Philbert were respectively now the ministers of the Detroit and Lansing Temples. Minister Jeremiah X headed Atlanta’s Temple. Minister John X had Los Angeles’ Temple. The Messenger’s son, Minister Wallace Muhammad, had the Philadelphia Temple. Minister Woodrow X had the Atlantic City Temple. Some of our ministers had unusual backgrounds. The Washington, D.C., Temple Minister Lucius X was previously a Seventh Day Adventist and a 32nd degree Mason. Minister George X of the Camden, New Jersey, Temple was a pathologist. Minister David X was previously the minister of a Richmond, Virginia, Christian church; he and enough of his congregation had become Muslims so that the congregation split and the majority turned the church into our Richmond Temple. The Boston Temple’s outstanding young Minister Louis X, previously a well-known and rising popular singer called “The Charmer,” had written our Nation’s popular first song, titled “White Man’s Heaven is Black Mali’s Hell.” Minister Louis X had also authored our first play, “Orgena” (“A Negro” spelled backwards); its theme was the all-black trial of a symbolic white man for his world crimes against non-whites; found guilty, sentenced to death, he was dragged off shouting about all he had done “for the nigra people.”
Younger even than our talented Louis X were some newer ministers, MinisterThomas J. X of the Hartford Temple being one example, and another the Buffalo Temple’s Minister Robert J. X.
I had either originally established or organized for Mr. Muhammad most of the represented temples. Greeting each of these Temples’ brother ministers would bring back into my mind images of “fishing” for converts along the streets and from door-to-door wherever the black people were congregated. I remembered the countless meetings in living rooms where maybe seven would be a crowd; the gradually building, building-on up to renting folding chairs for dingy little storefronts which Muslims scrubbed to spotlessness.
We together on a huge hall’s speaking platform, and that vast audience before us, miraculously manifested, as far as I was concerned, the incomprehensible power of Allah. For the first time, I truly understood something Mr. Muhammad had told me: he claimed that when he was going through the sacrificial trials of fleeing the black hypocrites from city to city, Allah had often sent him visions of great audiences who would one day hear the teachings; and Mr. Muhammad said the visions also buoyed him when he was locked up for years in the white man’s prison.
The great audience’s restless whisperings would cease . . . .
At the microphone would be the Nation’s National Secretary John Ali, or the Boston Temple Minister Louis X. They enlivened the all-black atmosphere, speaking of the new world open to the black man through the Nation of Islam. Sister Tynetta Dynear would speak beautifully of the Muslim women’s powerful, vital contributions, of the Muslim women’s roles in our Nation’s efforts to raise the physical, mental, moral, social, and political condition of America’s black people.
Next, I would come to the microphone, specifically to condition the audienceto hear Mr. Muhammad, who had flown from Chicago to teach us all in person.
I would raise up my hand, “_As-Salaikum-Salaam-_”
“_Wa-Alaikum-Salaam!_” It was a roared response from the great audience’s Muslim seating section.
There was a general pattern that I would follow on these occasions:
“My black brothers and sisters-of all religious beliefs, or of no religious beliefs-we all have in common the greatest binding tie we could have . . . we all are _black_ people!
“I’m not going to take all day telling you some of the greatnesses of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. I’m just going to tell you now his _greatest_ greatness! He is the _first_, the _only_ black leader to identify, to you and me, _who_ is our enemy!
“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is the first black leader among us with the _courage_ to tell us-out here in public-something which when you begin to think of it back in your homes, you will realize we black people have been _living_ with, we have been _seeing_, we have been _suffering_, all of our lives!
“Our _enemy_ is the _white man!_
“And why is Mr. Muhammad’s teaching us this such a great thing? Because when you know _who_ your enemy is, he can no longer keep you divided, and fighting, one brother against the other! Because when you recognize who your enemy is, he can no longer use trickery, promises, lies, hypocrisy, and his evil acts to keep you deaf, dumb, and blinded! “When you recognize _who_ your enemy is, he can no longer brainwash you, he can no longer pull wool over your eyes so that you never stop to see that you are living in pure _hell_ on this earth, while he lives in pure _heaven_ right on this same earth!-This enemy who tells you that you are both supposed to be worshiping the same white Christian God that-you are told-stands for the _same_ things for _all_ men!
“Oh, _yes_, that devil is our enemy. I’ll _prove_ it! Pick up any daily newspaper! Read the false charges leveled against our beloved religious leader. It only points up the fact that the Caucasian race never wants any black man who is not their puppet or parrot to speak for our people. This Caucasian devil slavemaster does not want or trust us to leave him-yet when we stay here among him, he continues to keep us at the very lowest level of his society!
“The white man has always _loved_ it when he could keep us black men tucked away somewhere, always out of sight, around the comer! The white man has always _loved_ the kind of black leaders whom he could ask, ‘Well, how’s things with your people up there?’ But because Mr. Elijah Muhammad takes an uncompromising stand with the white man, the white man _hates_ him! When you hear the _white man_ hate him, you, too, because you don’t understand Biblical prophecy, wrongly label Mr. Muhammad-as a racist, a hate-teacher, or of being anti-white and teaching black supremacy-”
The audience suddenly would begin a rustling of turning . . . .
Mr. Muhammad would be rapidly moving along up a center aisle from the rear-as once he had entered our humble little mosques-this man whom we regarded as Islam’s gentle, meek, brown-skinned Lamb. Stalwart, striding, close-cropped, hand-picked Fruit of Islam guards were a circle surrounding him. He carried his Holy Bible, his holy Quran. The small, dark pillbox atophis head was gold-embroidered with Islam’s flag, the sun, moon, and stars. The Muslims were crying out their adoration and their welcome. “Little Lamb!” “As-Salaikum-Salaam!” “Praise be to Allah!”
Tears would be in more eyes than mine. He had rescued me when I was a convict; Mr. Muhammad had trained me in his home, as if I was his son. I think that my life’s peaks of emotion, until recently, at least, were when, suddenly, the Fruit of Islam guards would stop stiffly at attention, and the platform’s several steps would be mounted alone by Mr. Muhammad, and his ministers, including me, sprang around him, embracing him, wringing both his hands . . . .
I would turn right back to the microphone, not to keep waiting those world’s biggest black audiences who had come to hear him.
“My black brothers and sisters-_no_ one will know _who_ we are . . . until _we_ know who we are! We never will be able to _go_ anywhere until we know _where_ we are! The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is giving us a true identity, and a true position-the first time they have ever been _known_ to the American black man!
“You can be around this man and never dream from his actions the power and the authority he has-” (Behind me, believe me when I tell you, I could _feel_ Mr. Muhammad’s _power_.)
“He does not _display_, and _parade_, his _power_! But no other black leader in America has followers who will lay down their lives if he says so! And I don’t mean all of this non-violent, begging-the-white-man kind of dying . . . all of this sitting-in, sliding-in, wading-in, eating-in, diving-in, and all the rest
“My black brothers and sisters, you have come from your homes to hear-now you are _going_ to hear-America’s _wisest_ black man! America’s _boldest_black man! America’s most _fearless_ black man! This wilderness of North America’s most _powerful_ black man!”
Mr. Muhammad would come quickly to the stand, looking out over the vacuum-quiet audience, his gentle-looking face set, for just a fleeting moment. Then, “As-Salaikum-Salaam-‘
The Muslims roared it, as they settled to listen. From experience, they knew that for the next two hours Mr. Muhammad would wield his two-edged sword of truth. In fact, every Muslim worried that he overtaxed himself in the length of his speeches, considering his bronchial asthmatic condition.
“I don’t have a degree like many of you out there before me have. But history don’t care anything about your degrees.
“The white man, he has filled you with a fear of him from ever since you were little black babies. So over you is the greatest enemy a man can have-and that is fear. I know some of you are afraid to listen to the truth-you have been raised on fear and lies. But I am going to preach to you the truth until you are free of that fear . . . .
“Your slavemaster, he brought you over here, and of your past everything was destroyed. Today, you do not know your true language. What tribe are you from? You would not recognize your tribe’s name if you heard it. You don’t know nothing about your true culture. You don’t even know your family’s real name. You are wearing a _white man’s_ name! The white slave-master, who _hates_ you!
“You are a people who think you know all about the Bible, and all aboutChristianity. You even are foolish enough to believe that nothing is _right_ but Christianity!
“You are the planet Earth’s only group of people ignorant of yourself, ignorant of your own kind, of your true history, ignorant of your enemy! You know nothing at _all_ but what your white slavemaster has chosen to tell you. And he has told you only that which will benefit himself, and his own kind. He has taught you, for his benefit, that you are a neutral, shiftless, helpless so-called ‘Negro.’
“I say _’so-called’_ because you are _not_ a _’Negro.’_ There is no such thing as a race of _’Negroes.’_ You are members of the Asiatic nation, from the tribe of _Shabazz_! ‘Negro’ is a false label
forced on you by your slavemaster! He has been pushing things onto you and me and our kind ever since he brought the first slave shipload of us black people here-”
When Mr. Muhammad paused, the Muslims before him cried out, “Little Lamb!” . . .”All praise is due to Allah!” . . .”_Teach_, Messenger!” He would continue.
“The _ignorance_ we of the black race here in America have, and the _self-hatred_ we have, they are fine examples of what the white slavemaster has seen fit to teach to us. Do we show the plain common sense, like every other people on this planet Earth, to unite among ourselves? No! We are humbling ourselves, sitting-in, and begging-in, trying to _unite_ with the slavemaster! I don’t seem able to imagine any more ridiculous sight. A thousand ways every day, the white man is telling you ‘You can’t live here, you can’t enter here, you can’t eat here, drink here, walk here, work here, you can’t ride here, you can’t play here,you can’t study here.’ Haven’t we yet seen enough to see that he has no plan to _unite_ with you?
“You have tilled his fields! Cooked his food! Washed his clothes! You have cared for his wife and children when he was away. In many cases, you have even suckled him at your _breast_! You have been far and away better Christians than this slave-master who _taught_ you his Christianity!
“You have sweated blood to help him build a country so rich that he can today afford to give away millions-even to his _enemies_! And when those enemies have gotten enough from him to then be able to attack him, you have been his brave soldiers, dying for him. And you have been always his most faithful servant during the so-called ‘peaceful’ times
“And, _still_, this Christian American white man has not got it in him to find the human _decency_, and enough sense of _justice_, to recognize us, and accept us, the black people who have done so much for him, as fellow human beings!”
“YAH, Man!” . . .”_Um-huh_!” “_Teach_, Messenger!” . . .”_Yah_!” . . .”_Tell ’em_!” . . .”You _right_!” . . .”Take your _time_ up there, little Messenger!” . . .”Oh, _yes_!”
Others besides the Muslims would be shouting now. We Muslims were less extroverted than Christian Negroes. It would sound now like an old-fashioned camp meeting.
“So let us, the black people, _separate_ ourselves from this white man slavemaster, who despises us so much! You are out here begging him for some so-called ‘_integration_!’ But what is this slavemaster white, _rapist_, going about saying! He is saying _he_ won’t integrate because black blood will_mongrelize_ his race! _He_ says that-and look at _us_! Turn around in your seats and look at each other! This slavemaster white man already has ‘_integrated_’ us until you can hardly find among us today any more than a very few who are the black color of our foreparents!”
“God-a-mighty, the man’s right!” . . .”_’Teach_, Messenger-” “_Hear_ him! _Hear_ him!”
“He has left such a little black in us,” Mr. Muhammad would go on, “that now he despises us so bad-meaning he despises _himself_, for what he has _done_ to us-that he tells us that _legally_ if we have got _one drop_ of black blood in us, that means you are all-black as far as his laws are concerned! Well, if that’s all we’ve got left, we want to _reclaim_ that one drop!”
Mr. Muhammad’s frail strength could be seen to be waning. But he would teach on:
“So let us _separate_ from this white man, and for the same reason _he_ says-in time to save ourselves from any more ‘_integration_! ‘
“Why _shouldn’t_ this white man who likes to think and call himself so good, and so generous, this white man who finances even his enemies-why _shouldn’t_ he subsidize a separate state, a separate territory, for we black people who have been such faithful slaves and servants? A separate territory on which we can lift _ourselves_ out of these white man’s _slums_ for us, and his _breadlines_ for us. And even for _those_ he is complaining that we cost him too much! We can do something for _ourselves_! We never have done what we _could_-because we have been brainwashed so well by the slavemaster white man that we must come to him, begging him, for everything we want, and need-”
After perhaps ninety minutes, behind Mr. Muhammad, every minister would have to restrain himself from bolting up to his side, to urge him that it was enough. He would be pressing his hands tightly against the edges of the speaker’s stand, to support himself.
“We black people don’t _know_ what we can do. You never can know what _anything_ can do-until it is set _free_, to act by itself! If you have a cat in your house that you pamper and pet, you have to free that cat, set it on its _own_, in the woods, before you can see that the cat had it in him to shelter and feed itself!
“We, the black people here in America, we never have been _free_ to find _out_ what we really can _do_! We have knowledge and experience to pool to do for ourselves! All of our lives we have farmed-we can grow our own food. We can set up factories to manufacture our own necessities! We can build other kinds of businesses, to establish trade, and commerce-and become independent, as other civilized people are
“We can _throw off_ our brainwashing, and our self-hate, and live as _brothers_ together . . .
“. . . some land of our _own_! . . . Something for _ourselves_! . . . leave this white slavemaster to _himself_. . . .”
Mr. Muhammad always stopped abruptly when he was unable to speak any longer.
The standing ovation, a solid wall of sound, would go on unabating.
Standing up there, flailing my arms, finally I could quiet the audiences as Fruit of Islam ushers began to pass along the seating rows the large, waxed paperbuckets we used to take up the collection. I would speak.
“You _know_, from what you have just heard, that no white money finances The Honorable Elijah Muhammad and his program-to ‘advise’ him and ‘contain’ him! Mr. Muhammad’s program, and his followers, are not ‘integrated.’ Mr. Muhammad’s program and organization are _all_-black!
“We are the _only_ black organization that _only_ black people support! These so-called ‘Negro progress’ organizations-Why, they insult your intelligence, claiming they are fighting in your behalf, to get you the equal rights you are asking for . . . claiming they are _fighting_ the white man who refuses to give you your rights. Why, the white man _supports_ those organizations! If you belong, you pay your two, or three, or five dollars a year-but _who_ gives those organizations those two, and three, and five _thousand_ dollar donations? The _white_ man! He _feeds_ those organizations! So he controls those organizations! He _advises_ them-so he _contains_ them! Use your common sense-aren’t you going to advise and control and contain anyone that you support, like your child?
“The white man would love to support Mr. Elijah Muhammad. Because if Mr. Muhammad had to rely on his support, he could _advise_ Mr. Muhammad. My black brothers and sisters, it is _only_ because _your_ money, _black_ money, supports Mr. Muhammad, that he can hold these all-black meetings from city to city, telling us black men the _truth_! That’s why we are asking for your all-black _support_!”
Nearly all bills-and far from all one-dollar bills, either, filled the waxed buckets. The buckets were swiftly emptied, then refilled, as the Fruit of Islam ushers covered the entire audience.
The audience atmosphere was almost as if the people had gone limp. The collections always covered the rally expenses, and anything beyond that helped to continue building the Nation of Islam.
After several big rallies, Mr. Muhammad directed that we would admit the white press. Fruit of Islam men thoroughly searched them, as everyone else was searched-their notebooks, their cameras, camera cases, and whatever else they carried. Later, Mr. Muhammad said that _any_ whites who wanted to hear the truth could attend our public rallies, until a small separate section for whites was filled.
Most whites who came were students and scholars. I would watch their congealed and reddened faces staring up at Mr. Muhammad. “The white man _knows_ that his acts have been those of a devil!” I would watch also the faces of the professional black men, the so-called intellectuals who attacked us. They possessed the academic know-how, they possessed the technical and the scientific skills that could help to lead their mass of poor, black brothers out of our condition. But all these intellectual and professional black men could seem to think of was humbling themselves, and begging, trying to “integrate” with the so-called “liberal” white man who was telling them, “In time . . . everything’s going to work out one day . . . just wait and have patience.” These intellectual and professional Negroes couldn’t use what they knew for the benefit of their own black kind simply because even among themselves they were disunited. United among themselves, united with their own kind, they could have benefited black people all over the world!
I would watch the faces of those intellectual and professional Negroes growing grave, and set-as the truth hit home to them. We were watched. Our telephones were tapped. Still right today, on my home telephone, if I said, “I’m going to bomb the Empire State Building,” I guarantee you in five minutes it would be surrounded. When I was speaking publicly sometimes I’d guess which were F.B.I. faces in the audience, or other types of agents. Both thepolice and the F.B.I. intently and persistently visited and questioned us. “I do not fear them,” Mr. Muhammad said. “I have all that I need-the truth.”
Many a night, I drifted off to sleep, filled with wonder at how the two-edged-sword teachings so hurt, confused, concerned, and upset the government full of men trained highly in all of the modern sciences. I felt that it never could have been unless The Most Learned One, Allah Himself, had given the little fourth-grade-trained Messenger something.
* * *
Black agents were sent to infiltrate us. But the white man’s “secret” spy often proved, first of all, a black man. I can’t say _all_ of them, of course, there’s no way to know-but some of them, after joining us, and hearing, seeing and _feeling_ the truth for every black man, revealed their roles to us. Some resigned from the white man’s agencies and came to work in the Nation of Islam. A few kept their jobs to counterspy, telling us the white man’s statements and plans about our Nation. This was how we learned that after wanting to know what happened within our Temples, the white law agencies’ second major concern was the thing that I believe still ranks today as a big worry among America’s penologists: the steadily increasing rate at which black convicts embrace Islam.
Generally, while still in prison, our convict-converts preconditioned themselves to meet our Nation’s moral laws. As it had happened with me, when they left prison, they entered a Temple fully qualified to become registered Muslims. In fact, convict-converts usually were better prepared than were numerous prospective Muslims who never had been inside a prison.
We were not nearly so easy to enter as a Christian church. One did not merely declare himself a follower of Mr. Muhammad, then continue leading the same old, sinful, immoral life. The Muslim first had to change his physical and moralself to meet our strict rules. To remain a Muslim he had to maintain those rules.
Few temple meetings were held, for instance, without the minister looking down upon some freshly shaved bald domes of new Muslim brothers in the audience. They had just banished from their lives forever that phony, lye-conked, metallic-looking hair, or “the process,” as some call it these days. It grieves me that I don’t care where you go, you see this symbol of ignorance and self-hate on so many Negroes’ heads. I know it’s bound to hurt the feelings of some of my good conked non-Muslim friends-but if you study closely any conked or “processed” Negro, you usually find he is an ignorant Negro. Whatever “show” or “front” he affects, his hair lye-cooked to be “white-looking” fairly shouts to everyone who looks at his head, “I’m ashamed to be a Negro.” He will discover, just as I did, that he will be much-improved mentally whenever he discovers enough black self-pride to have that mess clipped off, and then wear the natural hair that God gives black men to wear.
No Muslim smokes-that was another of our rules. Some prospective Muslims found it more difficult to quit tobacco than others found quitting the dope habit. But black men and women quit more easily when we got them to consider seriously how the white man’s government cared less about the public’s health than about continuing the tobacco industry’s _billions_ in tax revenue. “What does a serviceman pay for a carton of cigarettes?” a prospective Muslim convert would be asked. It helped him to see that every regularly priced carton he bought meant that the white man’s government took around two dollars of a black man’s hard-earned money for taxes, not for tobacco.
You may have read somewhere-a lot has been written concerning it-about the Nation of Islam’s phenomenal record of dope-addiction cures of longtime junkies. In fact, the _New York Times_ carried a story about how some of the social agencies have asked representatives of the Muslim program for clinical suggestions. The Muslim program began with recognizing that color and addiction have a distinct connection. It is no accident that in the entire Western Hemisphere, the greatest localized concentration of addicts is in _Harlem_.
Our cure program’s first major ingredient was the painfully patient work of Muslims who previously were junkies themselves.
In the ghetto’s dope jungle, the Muslim ex-junkies would fish out addicts who knew them back in those days. Then with an agonizing patience that might span anywhere from a few months to a year, our ex-junkie Muslims would conduct the addicts through the Muslim six-point therapeutic process.
The addict first was brought to admit to himself that he was an addict. Secondly, he was taught _why_ he used narcotics. Third, he was shown that there was a _way_ to stop addiction. Fourth, the addict’s shattered self-image, and ego, were built up until the addict realized that he had, _within_, the self-power to end his addiction. Fifth, the addict voluntarily underwent a cold turkey break with drugs. Sixth, finally cured, now an ex-addict completes the cycle by “fishing” up other addicts whom he knows, and supervising their salvaging.
This sixth stage always instantly eliminated what so often defeats the average social agencies-the characteristic addict’s hostility and suspicion. The addict who is “fished” up knew personally that the Muslim approaching him very recently had the same fifteen to thirty dollar a day habit. The Muslim may be this addict’s buddy; they had plied the same dope jungle. They even may have been thieves together. The addict had _seen_ the Muslim drifting off to sleep leaning against a building, or stepping as high over a matchstick as if it were a dog. And the Muslim, approaching the addict, uses the same old junkie jungle language. Like the alcoholic, the junkie can never start to cure himself until he recognizes and accepts his true condition. The Muslim sticks like a leech, drumming at his old junkie buddy, “You’re hooked, man!” It might take months before the addict comes to grips with this. The curative program is never really underway until this happens.
The next cure-phase is the addict’s realization of why he takes dope. Still working on his man, right in the old jungle locale, in dives that you wouldn’t believe existed, the Muslim often collects audiences of a dozen junkies. They listen only because they know the clean-cut proud Muslim had earlier been like them.
Every addict takes junk to escape something, the Muslim explains. He explains that most black junkies really are trying to narcotize themselves against being a black man in the white man’s America. But, actually, the Muslim says, the black man taking dope is only helping the white man to “prove” that the black man is nothing.
The Muslim talks confidentially, and straight. “Daddy, you know I know how you feel. Wasn’t I right out here with you? Scratching like a monkey, smelling all bad, living mad, hungry, stealing and running and hiding from Whitey. Man, what’s a black man buying Whitey’s dope for but to make Whitey richer-killing yourself!”
The Muslim can tell when his quarry is ready to be shown that the way for him to quit dope is through joining the Nation of Islam. The addict is brought into the local Muslim restaurant, he may occasionally be exposed to some other social situations-among proud, clean Muslims who show each other mutual affection and respect instead of the familiar hostility of the ghetto streets. For the first time in years, the addict hears himself called, genuinely, “Brother,””Sir” and “Mr.” No one cares about his past. His addiction may casually be mentioned, but if so, it is spoken of as merely an especially tough challenge that he must face. Everyone whom this addict meets is confident that he will kick his habit.
As the addict’s new image of himself builds, inevitably he begins thinking that he can break the habit. For the first time he is feeling the effects of black self-pride.
That’s a powerful combination for a man who has been existing in the mud of society. In fact, once he is motivated no one can change more completely than the man who has been at the bottom. I call myself the best example of that.
Finally, vitally, this addict will decide for himself that he wants to go on cold turkey. This means to endure the physical agonies of abruptly quitting dope.
When this time comes, ex-addict Muslims will arrange to spend the necessary days in aroundthe-clock shifts, attending the addict who intends to purge himself, on the way to becoming a Muslim.
When the addict’s withdrawal sets in, and he is screaming, cursing, and begging, “Just one shot, man!” the Muslims are right there talking junkie jargon to him. “Baby, knock that monkey off your back! Kick that habit! Kick Whitey off your back!” The addict, writhing in pain, his nose and eyes running, is pouring sweat from head to foot. He’s trying to knock his head against the wall, flailing his arms, trying to fight his attendants, he is vomiting, suffering diarrhea. “Don’t hold nothing back! Let Whitey go, baby! You’re going to stand tall, man! I can see you now in the Fruit of Islam!”
When the awful ordeal is ended, when the grip of dope is broken, the Muslims comfort the weak ex-addict, feeding him soups and broths, to get him onhis feet again. He will never forget these brothers who stood by him during this time. He will never forget that it was the Nation of Islam’s program which rescued him from the special hell of dope. And that black brother (or the sister, whom Muslim sisters attend) rarely ever will return to the use of narcotics. Instead, the ex-addict when he is proud, clean, renewed, can scarcely wait to hit the same junkie jungle he was in, to “fish” out some buddy and salvage _him_!
If some white man, or “approved” black man, created a narcotics cure program as successful as the one conducted under the aegis of the Muslims, why, there would be government subsidy, and praise and spotlights, and headlines. But we were attacked instead. Why shouldn’t the Muslims be subsidized to save millions of dollars a year for the government and the cities? I don’t know what addicts’ crimes cost nationally, but it is said to be _billions_ a year in New York City. An estimated $12 million a year is lost to thieves in Harlem alone.
An addict doesn’t work to supply his habit, which may cost anywhere from ten to fifty dollars a day. How could he earn that much? No! The addict steals, he hustles in other ways; he preys upon other human beings like a hawk or a vulture-as I did. Very likely, he is a school drop-out, the same as I was, an Army reject, psychologically unsuited to a job even if he was offered one, the same as I was.
Women addicts “boost” (shoplift), or they prostitute themselves. Muslim sisters talk hard to black prostitutes who are struggling to quit using dope in order to qualify morally to become registered Muslims. “You are helping the white man to regard your body as a garbage can-”
Numerous “exposes” of the Nation of Islam have implied that Mr. Muhammad’s followers were chiefly ex-cons and junkies. In the early years, yes, the converts from society’s lowest levels were a sizable part of the Nation’s broad base ofmembership. Always Mr. Muhammad instructed us, “Go after the black man in the mud.” Often, he said, those converted made the best Muslims.
But gradually we recruited other black people-the “good Christians” whom we “fished” from their churches. Then, an increase began in the membership percentage of educated and trained Negroes. For each rally attracted to the local temple a few more of that particular city’s so-called “middle-class” Negroes, the type who previously had scoffed at us “Black Muslims” as “demagogues,” and “hate-teachers,” “black racists” and all the rest of the names. The Muslim truths-listened to, thought about-reaped for us a growing quota of young black men and women. For those with training and talents, the Nation of Islam had plenty of positions where those abilities were needed.
There were some registered Muslims who would never reveal their membership, except to other Muslims, because of their positions in the white man’s world. There were, I know, a few, who because of their positions were known only to their ministers and to Mr. Elijah Muhammad.
* * *
In 1961, our Nation flourished. Our newspaper _Muhammad Speaks’_ full back page carried an architect’s drawing of a $20 million Islamic Center proposed to be built in Chicago. Every Muslim was making personal financial contribution toward the Center. It would include a beautiful mosque, school, library, and hospital, and a museum documenting the black man’s glorious history.
Mr. Muhammad visited the Muslim countries, and upon his return he directed that we would begin calling our temples “mosques.”
There was a sharp climb now, too, in the number of Muslim-owned small businesses. Our businesses sought to demonstrate to the black people what black people could do for themselves-if they would only unify, trade with each other-exclusively where possible-and hire each other, and in so doing, keep black money within the black communities, just as other minorities did.
Recordings of Mr. Muhammad’s speeches were now regularly being broadcast across America over small radio stations. In Detroit and Chicago, school-age Muslim children attended our two Universities of Islam-through high school in Chicago, and through junior high in Detroit. Starting from kindergarten, they learned of the black man’s glorious history and from the third grade they studied the black man’s original language, Arabic.
Mr. Muhammad’s eight children now were all deeply involved in key capacities in the Nation of Islam. I took a deep personal pride in having had something to do with that-at least in some cases, years before. When Mr. Muhammad had sent me out in his service as a minister, I began to feel it was a shame that his children worked as some of them then did for the white man, in factories, construction work, driving taxis, things like that. I felt that I should work for Mr. Muhammad’s family as sincerely as I worked for him. I urged Mr. Muhammad to let me put on a special drive within our few small mosques, to raise funds which would enable those of his children working for the white man to be instead employed within our Nation. Mr. Muhammad agreed, the special fund drive did prove successful, and his children gradually did begin working for the Nation. Emanuel, the oldest, today runs the dry-cleaning plant. Sister Ethel (Muhammad) Sharrieff is the Muslim Sisters’ Supreme Instructor. (Her husband, Raymond Sharrieff, is Supreme Captain of the Fruit of Islam.) Sister Lottie Muhammad supervises the two Universities of Islam. Nathaniel Muhammad assists Emanuel in the dry-cleaning plant. Herbert Muhammad now publishes _Muhammad Speaks_, the Nation’s newspaper that I began. Elijah Muhammad, Jr., is the Fruit of Islam Assistant Supreme Captain. Wallace Muhammad was the Philadelphia Mosque Minister, until finally he was suspended from the Nation along with me-for reasons I will go into. The youngest child, Akbar Muhammad, the family student, attends the University of Cairo at El-Azhar. Akbar also has broken with his father.
I believe that it was too strenuous a marathon of long speeches that Mr. Muhammad made at our big rallies which, abruptly, badly aggravated his long-bothersome bronchial asthmatic condition.
Just in conversation, Mr. Muhammad would suddenly begin coughing, and the coughing tempo would increase until it racked his slight body.
Mr. Muhammad almost doubled up sometimes. Soon, he had to take to his bed. As hard as he tried not to, as deeply as it grieved him, he had to cancel several long-scheduled appearances at big-city rallies. Thousands were disappointed to have to hear me instead, or other poor substitutes for Mr. Muhammad in person.
Members of the Nation were deeply concerned. Doctors recommended a dry climate. The Nation bought Mr. Muhammad a home in Phoenix, Arizona. One of the first times I visited Mr. Muhammad there, I stepped off a plane into flashing and whirring cameras until I wondered who was behind me. Then I saw the cameramen’s guns; they were from the Arizona Intelligence Division.
The wire of our Nation of Islam brought all Muslims the joyful news that the Arizona climate did vastly relieve the Messenger’s suffering. Since then he has spent most of each year in Phoenix.
Despite the fact that Mr. Muhammad, convalescing, could no longer work the daily long hours he had previously worked in Chicago, he was now more than ever burdened with heavy decision-making and administrative duties. In every respect, the Nation was expanded both internally and externally. Mr. Muhammad simply could no longer allot as much time as previously to considering and deciding which public-speaking, radio, and television requests he felt I should accept-as well as to some organizational matters which I had always brought to him for advice or decision.
Mr. Muhammad evidenced the depth of his trust in me. In those areas I’ve described, he told me to make the decisions myself. He said that my guideline should be whatever I felt was wise-whatever was in the general good interests of our Nation of Islam.
“Brother Malcolm, I want you to become well known,” Mr. Muhammad told me one day. “Because if you are well known, it will make _me_ better known,” he went on.
“But, Brother Malcolm, there is something you need to know. You will grow to be hated when you become well known. Because usually people get jealous of public figures.”
Nothing that Mr. Muhammad ever said to me was more prophetic.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://al-rasid.com/shared_uploads/The.Autobiography.of.MalcolmX.pdf
Photo from: ModernBenjamin (2016). The Autobiography of Malcolm X: Book Review. Retrieved from https://modernbenjamin.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/the-autobiography-of-malcolm-x-book-review/