Prince Faisal, the absolute ruler of Arabia, had made me a guest of the State. Among the
courtesies and privileges which this brought to me, especially-shamelessly-I relished the
chauffeured car which toured me around in Mecca with the chauffeur-guide pointing out sights of
particular significance. Some of the Holy City looked as ancient as time itself. Other parts of it
resembled a modern Miami suburb. I cannot describe with what feelings I actually pressed my
hands against the earth where the great Prophets had trod four thousand years before,
“The Muslim from America” excited everywhere the most intense curiosity and interest. I was
mistaken time and again for Cassius Clay. A local newspaper had printed a photograph of
Cassius and me together at the United Nations. Through my chauffeur-guide-interpreter I was
asked scores of questions about Cassius. Even children knew of him, and loved him there in the
Muslim world. By popular demand, the cinemas throughout Africa and Asia had shown his fight.
At that moment in young Cassius’ career, he had captured the imagination and the support of the
entire dark world.
My car took me to participate in special prayers at Mt. Arafat, and at Mina. The roads offered the
wildest drives that I had ever known: nightmare traffic, brakes squealing, skidding cars, and horns
blowing. (I believe that all of the driving in the Holy Land is done in the name of Allah.) I had
begun to learnthe prayers in Arabic; now, my biggest prayer difficulty was physical. The
unaccustomed prayer posture had caused my big toe to swell, and it pained me.
But the Muslim world’s customs no longer seemed strange to me. My hands now readily plucked
up food from a common dish shared with brother Muslims; I was drinking without hesitation from
the same glass as others; I was washing from the same little pitcher of water; and sleeping with
eight or ten others on a mat in the open. I remember one night at Muzdalifa with nothing but the
sky overhead I lay awake amid sleeping Muslim brothers and I learned that pilgrims from every
land-every color, and class, and rank; high officials and the beggar alike-all snored in the same
I’ll bet that in the parts of the Holy Land that I visited a million bottles of soft drinks were
consumed-and ten million cigarettes must have been smoked. Particularly the Arab Muslims
smoked constantly, even on the Hajj pilgrimage itself. The smoking evil wasn’t invented in
Prophet Muhammad’s days-if it had been, I believe he would have banned it.
It was the largest Hajj in history, I was later told. Kasem Gulek, of the Turkish Parliament,
beaming with pride, informed me that from Turkey alone over six hundred buses-over fifty
thousand Muslims-had made the pilgrimage. I told him that I dreamed to see the day when
shiploads and planeloads of American Muslims would come to Mecca for the Hajj.
There was a color pattern in the huge crowds. Once I happened to notice this, I closely observed
it thereafter. Being from America made me intensely sensitive to matters of color. I saw that
people who looked alike drew together and most of the time stayed together. This was entirely
voluntary; there being no other reason for it. But Africans were with Africans. Pakistanis were with Pakistanis. And so on. I tucked it into my mind that when I returned home I would tell Americans this observation; that where true brotherhood existed among all colors, where no one felt segregated, where there was no “superiority” complex, no “inferiority” complex-then voluntarily, naturally, people of the same kind felt drawn together by that which they had in common.
It is my intention that by the time of my next Hajj pilgrimage, I will have at least a working vocabulary of Arabic. In my ignorant, crippled condition in the Holy Land, I had been lucky to have met patient friends who enabled me to talk by interpreting for me. Never before in my life had I felt so deaf and dumb as during the times when no interpreter was with me to tell me what was being said around me, or about me, or even _to_ me, by other Muslims-before they learned that “the Muslim from America” knew only a few prayers in Arabic and, beyond that, he could only nod and smile.
Behind my nods and smiles, though, I was doing some American-type thinking and reflection. I saw that Islam’s conversions around the world could double and triple if the colorfulness and the true spiritualness of the Hajj pilgrimage were properly advertised and communicated to the outside world. I saw that the Arabs are poor at understanding the psychology of non-Arabs and the importance of public relations. The Arabs said “_insha Allah_” (“God willing”)-then they waited for converts. Even by this means, Islam was on the march, but I knew that with improved public relations methods the number of new converts turning to Allah could be turned into millions.
Constantly, wherever I went, I was asked questions about America’s racial discrimination. Even with my background, I was astonished at the degree to which the major single image of America seemed to be discrimination.
In a hundred different conversations in the Holy Land with Muslims high and low, and from around the world-and, later, when I got to Black Africa-I don’t have to tell you never once did I bite my tongue or miss a single opportunity to tell the truth about the crimes, the evils and the indignities that are suffered bythe black man in America. Through my interpreter, I lost no opportunity to advertise the American black man’s real plight. I preached it on the mountain at Arafat, I preached it in the busy lobby of the Jedda Palace Hotel. I would point at one after another-to bring it closer to home; “You . . . you . . . you-because of your dark skin, in America you, too, would be called ‘Negro.’ You could be bombed and shot and cattle-prodded and fire-hosed and beaten because of your complexions.”
As some of the poorest pilgrims heard me preach, so did some of the Holy World’s most important personages. I talked at length with the blue-eyed, blond-haired Hussein Amini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. We were introduced on Mt. Arafat by Kasem Gulick of the Turkish Parliament. Both were learned men; both were especially well-read on America. Kasem Gulick asked me why I had broken with Elijah Muhammad. I said that I preferred not to elaborate upon our differences, in the interests of preserving the American black man’s unity. They both understood and accepted that.
I talked with the Mayor of Mecca, Sheikh Abdullah Eraif, who when he was a journalist had criticized the methods of the Mecca municipality-and Prince Faisal made him the Mayor, to see if he could do any better. Everyone generally acknowledged that Sheikh Eraif was doing fine. A filmed feature “The Muslim From America” was made by Ahmed Horyallah and his partner Essid Muhammad of Tunis’ television station. In America once, in Chicago, Ahmed Horyallah had interviewed Elijah Muhammad.
The lobby of the Jedda Palace Hotel offered me frequent sizable informal audiences of important men from many different countries who were curious to hear the “American Muslim.” I met many Africans who had either spent some time in America, or who had heard other Africans’ testimony about America’s treatment of the black man. I remember how before one large audience, one cabinet minister from Black Africa (he knew more about world-wide current eventsthan anyone else I’ve ever met) told of his occasionally traveling in the United States, North and South, deliberately not wearing his national dress. Just recalling the indignities he had met as a black man seemed to expose some raw nerve in this highly educated, dignified official. His eyes blazed in his passionate anger, his hands hacked the air: “Why is the American black man so complacent about being trampled upon? Why doesn’t the American black man _fight_ to be a human being?”
A Sudanese high official hugged me, “You champion the American black people!” An Indian official wept in his compassion “for my brothers in your land.” I reflected many, many times to myself upon how the American Negro has been entirely brainwashed from ever seeing or thinking of himself, as he should, as a part of the non-white peoples of the world. The American Negro has no conception of the hundreds of millions of other non-whites’ concern for him: he has no conception of their feeling of brotherhood for and with him.
It was there in the Holy Land, and later in Africa, that I formed a conviction which I have had ever since-that a topmost requisite for any Negro leader in America ought to be extensive traveling in the non-white lands on this earth, and the travel should include many conferences with the ranking men of those lands. I guarantee that any honest, open-minded Negro leader would return home with more effective thinking about alternative avenues to solutions of the American black man’s problem. Above all, the Negro leaders would find that many non-white officials of the highest standing, especially Africans, would tell them-privately-that they would be glad to throw their weight behind the Negro cause, in the United Nations, and in other ways. But these officials understandably feel that the Negro in America is so confused and divided that he doesn’t himself know what his cause is. Again, it was mainly Africans who variously expressed to me that no one would wish to be embarrassed trying to help a brother who shows no evidence that he wants that help-and who seems to refuse to cooperate in his own interests. The American black “leader’s” most critical problem is lack of imagination! His thinking, his strategies, if any, are always limited, at least basically, to only that which is either advised, or approved by the white man. And the first thing the American power structure doesn’t want any Negroes to start is thinking _internationally_.
I think the single worst mistake of the American black organizations, and their leaders, is that they have failed to establish direct brotherhood lines of communication between the independent nations of Africa and the American black people. Why, every day, the black African heads of state should be receiving direct accounts of the latest developments in the American black man’s struggles-instead of the U.S. State Department’s releases to Africans which always imply that the American black man’s struggle is being “solved.”
Two American authors, best-sellers in the Holy Land, had helped to spread and intensify the concern for the American black man. James Baldwin’s books, translated, had made a tremendous impact, as had the book _Black Like Me_, by John Griffin. If you’re unfamiliar with that book, it tells how the white man Griffin blackened his skin and spent two months traveling as a Negro about America; then Griffin wrote of the experiences that he met. “A frightening experience!” I heard exclaimed many times by people in the Holy World who had read the popular book. But I never heard it without opening their thinking further: “Well, if it was a frightening experience for him as nothing but a make-believe Negro for sixty days-then you think about what _real_ Negroes in America have gone through for four hundred years.”
One honor that came to me, I had prayed for: His Eminence, Prince Faisal, invited me to a personal audience with him.
As I entered the room, tall, handsome Prince Faisal came from behind his desk.I never will forget the reflection I had at that instant, that here was one of the world’s most important men, and yet with his dignity one saw clearly his sincere humility. He indicated for me a chair opposite from his. Our interpreter was the Deputy Chief of Protocol, Muhammad Abdul Azziz Maged, an Egyptian-born Arab, who looked like a Harlem Negro.
Prince Faisal impatiently gestured when I began stumbling for words trying to express my gratitude for the great honor he had paid me in making me a guest of the State. It was only Muslim hospitality to another Muslim, he explained, and I was an unusual Muslim from America. He asked me to understand above all that whatever he had done had been his pleasure, with no other motives whatever.
A gliding servant served a choice of two kinds of tea as Prince Faisal talked. His son, Muhammad Faisal, had “met” me on American television while attending a Northern California university. Prince Faisal had read Egyptian writers’ articles about the American “Black Muslims.” “If what these writers say is true, the Black Muslims have the wrong Islam,” he said. I explained my role of the previous twelve years, of helping to organize and to build the Nation of Islam. I said that my purpose for making the Hajj was to get an understanding of true Islam. “That is good,” Prince Faisal said, pointing out that there was an abundance of English-translation literature about Islam-so that there was no excuse for ignorance, and no reason for sincere people to allow themselves to be misled.
* * *
The last of April, 1964, I flew to Beirut, the seaport capital of Lebanon. A part of me, I left behind in the Holy City of Mecca. And, in turn, I took away with me-forever-a part of Mecca.
I was on my way, now, to Nigeria, then Ghana. But some friends I had made inthe Holy Land had urged and insisted that I make some stops en route and I had agreed. For example, it had been arranged that I would first stop and address the faculty and the students at the American University of Beirut.
In Beirut’s Palm Beach Hotel, I luxuriated in my first long sleep since I had left America. Then, I went walking-fresh from weeks in the Holy Land: immediately my attention was struck by the mannerisms and attire of the Lebanese women. In the Holy Land, there had been the very modest, very feminine Arabian women-and there was this sudden contrast of the half-French, half-Arab Lebanese women who projected in their dress and street manners more liberty, more boldness. I saw clearly the obvious European influence upon the Lebanese culture. It showed me how any country’s moral strength, or its moral weakness, is quickly measurable by the street attire and attitude of its women-especially its young women. Wherever the spiritual values have been submerged, if not destroyed, by an emphasis upon the material things, invariably, the women reflect it. Witness the women, both young and old, in America-where scarcely any moral values are left. There seems in most countries to be either one extreme or the other. Truly a paradise could exist wherever material progress and spiritual values could be properly balanced.
I spoke at the University of Beirut the truth of the American black man’s condition. I’ve previously made the comment that any experienced public speaker can feel his audience’s reactions. As I spoke, I felt the subjective and defensive reactions of the American white students present-but gradually their hostilities lessened as I continued to present the unassailable facts. But the students of African heritage-well, I’ll _never_ get over how the African displays his emotions.
Later, with astonishment, I heard that the American press carried stories that my Beirut speech caused a “riot.” What kind of a riot? I don’t know how any reporter, in good conscience, could have cabled that across the ocean. The Beirut _Daily Star_ front-page report of my speech mentioned no “riot”-because there was none. When I was done, the African students all but besieged me for autographs; some of them even hugged me. Never have even American Negro audiences accepted me as I have been accepted time and again by the less inhibited, more down-to-earth Africans.
From Beirut, I flew back to Cairo, and there I took a train to Alexandria, Egypt. I kept my camera busy during each brief stopover. Finally I was on a plane to Nigeria.
During the six-hour flight, when I was not talking with the pilot (who had been a 1960 Olympics swimmer), I sat with a passionately political African. He almost shouted in his fervor. “When people are in a stagnant state, and are being brought out of it, there is no _time_ for voting!” His central theme was that no new African nation, trying to decolonize itself, needed any political system that would permit division and bickering. “The people don’t know what the vote means! It is the job of the enlightened leaders to raise the people’s intellect.”
In Lagos, I was greeted by Professor Essien-Udom of the Ibadan University. We were both happy to see each other. We had met in the United States as he had researched the Nation of Islam for his book, _Black Nationalism_. At his home, that evening, a dinner was held in my honor, attended by other professors and professional people. As we ate, a young doctor asked me if I knew that New York City’s press was highly upset about a recent killing in Harlem of a white woman-for which, according to the press, many were blaming me at least indirectly. An elderly white couple who owned a Harlem clothing store had been attacked by several young Negroes, and the wife was stabbed to death. Some of these young Negroes, apprehended by the police, had described themselves as belonging to an organization they called “Blood Brothers.” These youths, allegedly, had said or implied that they were affiliated with “Black Muslims” whohad split away from the Nation of Islam to join up with me.
I told the dinner guests that it was my first word of any of it, but that I was not surprised when violence happened in any of America’s ghettoes where black men had been living packed like animals and treated like lepers. I said that the charge against me was typical white man scapegoat-seeking-that whenever something white men disliked happened in the black community, typically white public attention was directed not at the cause, but at a selected scapegoat.
As for the “Blood Brothers,” I said I considered all Negroes to be my blood brothers. I said that the white man’s efforts to make my name poison actually succeeded only in making millions of black people regard me like Joe Louis.
Speaking in the Ibadan University’s Trenchard Hall, I urged that Africa’s independent nations needed to see the necessity of helping to bring the Afro-American’s case before the United Nations. I said that just as the American Jew is in political, economic, and cultural harmony with world Jewry, I was convinced that it was time for all Afro-Americans to join the world’s Pan-Africanists. I said that physically we Afro-Americans might remain in America, fighting for our Constitutional rights, but that philosophically and culturally we Afro-Americans badly needed to “return” to Africa-and to develop a working unity in the framework of Pan-Africanism.
Young Africans asked me politically sharper questions than one hears from most American adults. Then an astonishing thing happened when one old West Indian stood and began attacking me-for attacking America. “Shut up! Shut up!” students yelled, booing, and hissing. The old West Indian tried to express defiance of them, and in a sudden rush a group of students sprang up and were after him. He barely escaped ahead of them. I never saw anything like it. Screaming at him, they ran him off the campus. (Later, I found out that the oldWest Indian was married to a white woman, and he was trying to get a job in some white-influenced agency which had put him up to challenge me. Then, I understood his problem.)
This wasn’t the last time I’d see the Africans’ almost fanatic expression of their political emotions.
Afterward, in the Students’ Union, I was plied with questions, and I was made an honorary member of the Nigerian Muslim Students’ Society. Right here in my wallet is my card: “Alhadji Malcolm X. Registration No. M-138.” With the membership, I was given a new name: “Omowale.” It means, in the Yoruba language, “the son who has come home.” I meant it when I told them I had never received a more treasured honor.
Six hundred members of the Peace Corps were in Nigeria, I learned. Some white Peace Corps members who talked with me were openly embarrassed at the guilt of their race in America. Among the twenty Negro Peace Corpsmen I talked with, a very impressive fellow to me was Larry Jackson, a Morgan State
College graduate from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who had joined the Peace Corps in 1962.
I made Nigerian radio and television program appearances. When I remember seeing black men operating their _own_ communications agencies, a thrill still runs up my spine. The reporters who interviewed me included an American Negro from _Newsweek_ magazine-his name was Williams. Traveling through Africa, he had recently interviewed Prime Minister Nkrumah.
Talking with me privately, one group of Nigerian officials told me how skillfully the U.S. Information Agency sought to spread among Africans the impression that American Negroes were steadily advancing, and that the race problemsoon would be solved. One high official told me, “Our informed leaders and many, many others know otherwise.” He said that behind the “diplomatic front” of every African U.N. official was recognition of the white man’s gigantic duplicity and conspiracy to keep the world’s peoples of African heritage separated-both physically and ideologically-from each other.
“In your land, how many black people think about it that South and Central and North America contain over _eighty million_ people of African descent?” he asked me.
“The world’s course will change the day the African-heritage peoples come together as brothers!”
I never had heard that kind of global black thinking from any black man in America.
From Lagos, Nigeria, I flew on to Accra, Ghana.
I think that nowhere is the black continent’s wealth and the natural beauty of its people richer than in Ghana, which is so proudly the very fountainhead of Pan-Africanism.
I stepped off the plane into a jarring note. A red-faced American white man recognized me; he had the nerve to come up grabbing my hand and telling me in a molasses drawl that he was from Alabama, and then he invited me to his home for dinner!
My hotel’s dining room, when I went to breakfast, was full of more of those whites-discussing Africa’s untapped wealth as though the African waiters had no ears. It nearly ruined my meal, thinking how in America they sicked police dogs on black people, and threw bombs in black churches, while blocking thedoors of their white churches-and now, once again in the land where their forefathers had stolen blacks and thrown them into slavery, was that white man.
Right there at my Ghanaian breakfast table was where I made up my mind that as long as I was in Africa, every time I opened my mouth, I was going to make things hot for that white man, grinning through his teeth wanting to exploit Africa again-it had been her human wealth the last time, now he wanted Africa’s mineral wealth.
And I knew that my reacting as I did presented no conflict with the convictions of brotherhood which I had gained in the Holy Land. The Muslims of “white” complexions who had changed my opinions were men who had showed me that they practiced genuine brotherhood. And I knew that any American white man with a genuine brotherhood for a black man was hard to find, no matter how much he grinned.
The author Julian Mayfield seemed to be the leader of Ghana’s little colony of Afro-American expatriates. When I telephoned Mayfield, in what seemed no time at all I was sitting in his home surrounded by about forty black American expatriates; they had been waiting for my arrival. There were business and professional people, such as the militant former Brooklynites Dr. and Mrs.
Robert E. Lee, both of them dentists, who had given up their United States’ citizenship. Such
others as Alice Windom, Maya Angelou Make, Victoria Garvin, and Leslie Lacy had even formed
a “Malcolm X Committee” to guide me through a whirlwind calendar of appearances and social
In my briefcase here are some of the African press stories which had appeared when it was
learned that I was en route:
“Malcolm X’s name is almost as familiar to Ghanaians as the Southern dogs, fire hoses, cattle
prods, people sticks, and the ugly, hate-contorted white faces. . . .”
“Malcolm X’s decision to enter the mainstream of the struggle heralds a hopeful sign on the
sickeningly dismal scene of brutalized, non-violent, passive resistance. . . .”
“An extremely important fact is that Malcolm X is the first Afro-American leader of national
standing to make an independent trip to Africa since Dr. Du Bois came to Ghana. This may be the
beginning of a new phase in our struggle. Let’s make sure we don’t give it less thought than the
State Department is doubtless giving it right now.”
And another: “Malcolm X is one of our most significant and militant leaders. We are in a battle.
Efforts will be made to malign and discredit him. . . .”
I simply couldn’t believe this kind of reception five thousand miles from America! The officials of
the press had even arranged to pay my hotel expenses, and they would hear no objection that I
made. They included T. D. Baffoe, the Editor-in-Chief of the _Ghanaian Times_; G. T. Anim, the
Managing Director of the Ghana News Agency; Kofi Batsa, the Editor of _Spark_ and the
Secretary-General of the Pan-African Union of Journalists; and Mr. Cameron Duodu; and others. I
could only thank them all. Then, during the beautiful dinner which had been prepared by Julian
Mayfield’s pretty Puerto Rican wife, Ana Livia (she was in charge of Accra’s district health
program), I was plied with questions by the eagerly interested black expatriates from America
who had returned to Mother Africa.
I can only wish that every American black man could have shared my ears, my eyes, and my
emotions throughout the round of engagements which had been made for me in Ghana. And my
point in saying this is not the reception that I personally received as an individual of whom they
had heard, but it was thereception tendered to me as the symbol of the militant American black
man, as I had the honor to be regarded.
At a jam-packed press club conference, I believe the very first question was why had I split with
Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. The Africans had heard such rumors as that Elijah
Muhammad had built a palace in Arizona. I straightened out that falsehood, and I avoided any
criticism. I said that our disagreement had been in terms of political direction and involvement in
the extra-religious struggle for human rights. I said I respected the Nation of Islam for its having
been a psychologically revitalizing movement and a source of moral and social reform, and that
Elijah Muhammad’s influence upon the American black man had been basic.
I stressed to the assembled press the need for mutual communication and support between the
Africans and Afro-Americans whose struggles were interlocked. I remember that in the press
conference, I used the word “Negro,” and I was firmly corrected. “The word is not favored here,
Mr. Malcolm X. The term Afro-American has greater meaning, and dignity.” I sincerely apologized.
I don’t think that I said “Negro” again as long as I was in Africa. I said that the 22 million Afro-
Americans in the United States could become for Africa a great positive force-while, in turn, the
African nations could and should exert positive force at diplomatic levels against America’s racial
discrimination. I said, “All of Africa unites in opposition to South Africa’s apartheid, and to the
oppression in the Portuguese territories. But you waste your time if you don’t realize that
Verwoerd and Salazar, and Britain and France, never could last a day if it were not for United
States support. So until you expose the man in Washington, D.C., you haven’t accomplished
I knew that the State Department’s G. Mennen Williams was officially visiting in Africa. I said, “Take my word for it-you be suspicious of all these American officials who come to Africa grinning in your faces when they don’t grin in oursback home.” I told them that my own father was murdered by whites in the state of Michigan where G. Mennen Williams once was the Governor.
I was honored at the Ghana Club, by more press representatives and dignitaries. I was the guest at the home of the late black American author Richard Wright’s daughter, beautiful, slender, soft-voiced Julia, whose young French husband publishes a Ghanaian paper. Later, in Paris, I was to meet Richard Wright’s widow, Ellen, and a younger daughter, Rachel.
I talked with Ambassadors, at their embassies. The Algerian Ambassador impressed me as a man who was dedicated totally to militancy, and to world revolution, as the way to solve the problems of the world’s oppressed masses. His perspective was attuned not just to Algerians, but to include the Afro-Americans and all others anywhere who were oppressed. The Chinese Ambassador, Mr. Huang Ha, a most perceptive, and also most militant man, focused upon the efforts of the West to divide Africans from the peoples of African heritage elsewhere. The Nigerian Ambassador was deeply concerned about the Afro-Americans’ plight in America. He had personal knowledge of their suffering, having lived and studied in Washington, D.C. Similarly, the most sympathetic Mali Ambassador had been in New York at the United Nations. I breakfasted with Dr. Makonnen of British Guiana. We discussed the need for the type of Pan-African unity that would also include the Afro-Americans. And I had a talk in depth about Afro-American problems with Nana Nketsia, the Ghanaian Minister of Culture.
Once when I returned to my hotel, a New York City call was waiting for me from Mai Goode of the American Broadcasting Company. Over the telephone Mai Goode asked me questions that I answered for his beeping tape recorder, about the “Blood Brothers” in Harlem, the rifle clubs for Negroes, and other subjects with which I was being kept identified in the American press.
In the University of Ghana’s Great Hall, I addressed the largest audience that I would in Africa-mostly Africans, but also numerous whites. Before this audience, I tried my best to demolish the false image of American race relations that I knew was spread by the U.S. Information Agency. I tried to impress upon them all the true picture of the Afro-American’s plight at the hands of the white man. I worked on those whites there in the audience:
“I’ve never _seen_ so many whites so nice to so many blacks as you white people here in Africa. In America, Afro-Americans are struggling for integration. They should come here-to Africa-and see how you grin at Africans. You’ve really got integration here. But can you tell the Africans that in America you grin at the black people? No, you can’t! And you don’t honestly like these Africans any better, either-but what you _do_ like is the _minerals_ Africa has under her soil. . . .”
Those whites out in the audience turned pink and red. They knew I was telling the truth. “I’m not anti-American, and I didn’t come here to _condemn_ America-I want to make that very clear!” I told them. “I came here to tell the truth-and if the _truth_ condemns America, then she stands condemned!”
One evening I met most of the officials in Ghana-all of those with whom I had previously talked, and more-at a party that was given for me by the Honorable Kofi Baako, the Ghanaian Minister of Defense, and the Leader of the National Assembly. I was told that this was the first time such an honor was accorded to a foreigner since Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois had come to Ghana. There was music, dancing, and fine Ghanaian food. Several persons at the party were laughing among themselves, saying that at an earlier party that day, U.S. Ambassador Mahomey was knocking himself out being exceptionally friendly and jovial. Some thought that he was making a strong effort to counteract the truth about America that I was telling every chance I got.
Then an invitation came to me which exceeded my wildest dream. I would never have imagined that I would actually have an opportunity to address the members of the Ghanaian Parliament!
I made my remarks brief-but I made them strong: “How can you condemn Portugal and South Africa while our black people in America are being bitten by dogs and beaten with clubs?” I said I felt certain that the only reason black Africans-our black brothers-could be so silent about what happened in America was that they had been misinformed by the American government’s propaganda agencies.
At the end of my talk, I heard “Yes! We support the Afro-American . . . morally, physically, materially if necessary!”
In Ghana-or in all of black Africa-my highest single honor was an audience at the Castle with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkru-mah.
Before seeing him, I was searched most thoroughly. I respected the type of security the Ghanaians erect around their leader. It gave me that much more respect for independent black men. Then, as I entered Dr. Nkramah’s long office, he came out from behind his desk at the far end. Dr. Nkrumah wore ordinary dress, his hand was extended and a smile was on his sensitive face. I pumped his hand. We sat on a couch and talked. I knew that he was particularly well-informed on the Afro-American’s plight, as for years he had lived and studied in America. We discussed the unity of Africans and peoples of African descent. We agreed that Pan-Africanism was the key also to the problems of those of African heritage. I could feel the warm, likeable and very down-to-earth qualities of Dr. Nkrumah. My time with him was up all too soon. I promised faithfully that when I returned to the United States, I would relay to Afro-Americans his personal warm regards.
That afternoon, thirty-nine miles away in Winneba, I spoke at the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute-where two hundred students were being trained to carry forward Ghana’s intellectual revolution, and here again occurred one of those astounding demonstrations of the young African’s political fervor. After I had spoken, during the question-and-answer period, some young Afro-American stood up, whom none there seemed to know. “I am an American Negro,” he announced himself. Vaguely, he defended the American white man. The African students booed and harassed him. Then instantly when the meeting was over, they cornered this fellow with verbal abuse, “Are you an agent of Rockefeller?” . . .”Stop corrupting our children!” (The fellow had turned out to be a local secondary school teacher, placed in the job by an American agency.). . .”Come to this Institute for some orientation!” Temporarily, a teacher rescued the fellow-but then the students rushed him and drove him away, shouting, “Stooge!” . . .”C.I.A.” . . .”American agent!”
Chinese Ambassador and Mrs. Huang Hua gave a state dinner in my honor. The guests included the Cuban and the Algerian ambassadors, and also it was here that I met Mrs. W. E. B. Du Bois. After the excellent dinner, three films were shown. One, a color film, depicted the People’s Republic of China in celebration of its Fourteenth Anniversary. Prominently shown in this film was the militant former North Carolina Afro-American Robert Williams, who has since taken refuge in Cuba after his advocacy that the American black people should take up arms to defend and protect themselves. The second film focused upon the Chinese people’s support for the Afro-American struggle. Chairman Mao Tse-tung was shown delivering his statement of that support, and the film offered sickening moments of graphic white brutality-police and civilian-to Afro-Americans who were demonstrating in various U.S. cities, seeking civil rights. And the final film was a dramatic presentation of the Algerian Revolution.
The “Malcolm X Committee” rushed me from the Chinese Embassy dinner towhere a soiree in my honor had already begun at the Press Club. It was my first sight of Ghanaians dancing the high-life. A high and merry time was being had by everyone, and I was pressed to make a short speech. I stressed again the need for unity between Africans and Afro-Americans. I cried out of my heart, “Now, dance! Sing! But as you do-remember
Mandela, remember Sobokwe! Remember Lumumba in his grave! Remember South Africans now in jail!”
I said, “You wonder why _I_ don’t dance? Because I want you to remember twenty-two million Afro-Americans in the U.S.!”
But I sure felt like dancing! The Ghanaians performed the high-life as if possessed. One pretty African girl sang “Blue Moon” like Sarah Vaughan. Sometimes the band sounded like Milt Jackson, sometimes like Charlie Parker.
The next morning, a Saturday, I heard that Cassius Clay and his entourage had arrived. There was a huge reception for him at the airport. I thought that if Cassius and I happened to meet, it would likely prove embarrassing for Cassius, since he had elected to remain with Elijah Muhammad’s version of Islam. I would not have been embarrassed, but I knew that Cassius would have been forbidden to associate with me. I knew that Cassius knew I had been with him, and for him, and believed in him, when those who later embraced him felt that he had no chance. I decided to avoid Cassius so as not to put him on the spot.
A luncheon was given for me that afternoon by the Nigerian High Commissioner, His Excellency Alhadji Isa Wall, a short, bespectacled, extremely warm and friendly man who had lived in Washington, D.C. for two years. After lunch, His Excellency spoke to the guests of his American encounters with discrimination, and of friendships he had made with Afro-Americans, and he reaffirmed the bonds between Africans and Afro-Americans. His Excellency held up before the luncheon guests a large and handsome issue of an American magazine, _Horizon_; it was opened to an article about the Nation of Islam, written by Dr. Morroe Berger of Princeton University. One full page was a photograph of me; the opposite full page was a beautiful color illustration of a black royal Nigerian Muslim, stalwart and handsome, of hundreds of years ago.
“When I look at these photographs, I know these two people are one,” said His Excellency. “The only difference is in their attire-and one was born in America and the other in Africa.
“So to let everyone know that I believe we are brothers, I am going to give to Alhadji Malcolm X a robe like that worn by the Nigerian in this photo.”
I was overwhelmed by the splendor of the beautiful blue robe and the orange turban which His Excellency then presented to me. I bent over so that he, a short man, could properly arrange the turban on my head. His Excellency Alhadji Isa Wali also presented me with a two-volume translation of the Holy Quran. After this unforgettable luncheon, Mrs. Shirley Graham Du Bois drove me to her home, so that I could see and photograph the home where her famed late husband, Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, had spent his last days. Mrs. Du Bois, a writer, was the Director of Ghanaian television, which was planned for educational purposes. When Dr. Du Bois had come to Ghana, she told me, Dr. Nkrumah had set up the aging great militant Afro-American scholar like a king, giving to Dr. Du Bois everything he could wish for. Mrs. Du Bois told me that when Dr. Du Bois was failing fast, Dr. Nkrumah had visited, and the two men had said good-bye, both knowing that one’s death was near-and Dr. Nkrumah had gone away in tears.
My final Ghanaian social event was a beautiful party in my honor given by HisExcellency Mr. Armando Entralgo Gonzalez, the Cuban Ambassador to Ghana. The next morning-it was Sunday-the “Malcolm X Committee” was waiting at my hotel, to accompany me to the airport. As we left the hotel, we met Cassius Clay with some of his entourage, returning from his morning walk. Cassius momentarily seemed uncertain-then he spoke, something almost monosyllabic, like “How are you?” It flashed through my mind how close we had been before the fight that had changed the course of his life. I replied that I was fine-something like that-and that I hoped he was, which I sincerely meant. Later on, I sent Cassius a message by wire, saying that I hoped that he would realize how much he was loved by Muslims wherever they were; and that he would not let anyone use him and maneuver him into saying and doing things to tarnish his image.
The “Malcolm X Committee” and I were exchanging goodbyes at the Accra airport when a small motorcade of _five Ambassadors_ arrived-to see me off! I no longer had any words.
In the plane, bound for Monrovia, Liberia, to spend a day, I knew that after what I had experienced in the Holy Land, the second most indelible memory I would carry back to America would be the Africa seething with serious awareness of itself, and of Africa’s wealth, and of her power, and of her destined role in the world.
From Monrovia, I flew to Dakar, Senegal. The Senegalese in the airport, hearing about the Muslim from America, stood in line to shake my hand, and I signed many autographs. “Our people can’t speak Arabic, but we have Islam in our hearts,” said one Senegalese. I told them that exactly described their fellow Afro-American Muslims.
From Dakar, I flew to Morocco, where I spent a day sightseeing. I visited the famous Casbah, the ghetto which had resulted when the ruling white Frenchwouldn’t let the dark-skinned natives into certain areas of Casablanca. Thousands upon thousands of the subjugated natives were crowded into the ghetto, in the same way that Harlem, in New York City, became America’s Casbah.
It was Tuesday, May 19, 1964-my thirty-ninth birthday-when I arrived in Algiers. A lot of water had gone under the bridge in those years. In some ways, I had had more experiences than a dozen men. The taxi driver, while taking me to the Hotel Aletti, described the atrocities the French had committed, and personal measures that he had taken to get even. I walked around Algiers, hearing rank-and-file expressions of hatred for America for supporting the oppressors of the Algerians. They were true revolutionists, not afraid of death. They had, for so long, faced death.
* * *
The Pan American jet which took me home-it was Flight 115-landed at New York’s Kennedy Air Terminal on May 21, at 4:25 in the afternoon. We passengers filed off the plane and toward Customs. When I saw the crowd of fifty or sixty reporters and photographers, I honestly wondered what celebrity I had been on the plane with.
But I was the “villain” they had come to meet.
In Harlem especially, and also in some other U.S. cities, the 1964 long, hot summer’s predicted explosions had begun. Article after article in the white man’s press had cast me as a symbol-if not a causative agent-of the “revolt” and of the “violence” of the American black man, wherever it had sprung up.
In the biggest press conference that I had ever experienced anywhere, the camera bulbs flashed, and the reporters fired questions.
“Mr. Malcolm X, what about those ‘Blood Brothers,’ reportedly affiliated with your organization, reportedly trained for violence, who have killed innocent white people?” . . .”Mr. Malcolm X, what about your comment that Negroes should form rifle clubs? . . .”
I answered the questions. I knew I was back in America again, hearing the subjective, scapegoat-seeking questions of the white man. New York white youth were killing victims; that was a “sociological” problem. But when black youth killed somebody, the power structure was looking to hang somebody. When black men had been lynched or otherwise murdered in cold blood, it was always said, “Things will get better. “When whites had rifles in their homes, the Constitution gave them the right to protect their home and themselves. But when black people even spoke of having rifles in their homes, that was “ominous.”
I slipped in on the reporters something they hadn’t been expecting. I said that the American black man needed to quit thinking what the white man had taught him-which was that the black man had no alternative except to beg for his so-called “civil rights.” I said that the American black man needed to recognize that he had a strong, airtight case to take the United States before the United Nations on a formal accusation of “denial of human rights”-and that if Angola and South Africa were precedent cases, then there would be no easy way that the U.S. could escape being censured, right on its own home ground.
Just as I had known, the press wanted to get me off that subject. I was asked about my “Letter From Mecca”-I was all set with a speech regarding that:
“I hope that once and for all my Hajj to the Holy City of Mecca has established our Muslim Mosque’s authentic religious affiliation with the 750 million Muslims of the orthodox Islamic World. And I _know_ once and for all that the Black Africans look upon America’s 22 million blacks as long-lost _brothers_!They _love_ us! They _study_ our struggle for freedom! They were so _happy_ to hear how we are awakening from our long sleep-after so-called ‘Christian’ white America had taught us to be _ashamed_ of our African brothers and homeland!
“Yes-I wrote a letter from Mecca. You’re asking me ‘Didn’t you say that now you accept white men as brothers?’ Well, my answer is that in the Muslim World, I saw, I felt, and I wrote home how my thinking was broadened! Just as I wrote, I shared true, brotherly love with many white-complexioned Muslims who never gave a single thought to the race, or to the complexion, of another Muslim.
“My pilgrimage broadened my scope. It blessed me with a new insight. In two weeks in the Holy Land, I saw what I never had seen in thirty-nine years here in America. I saw all _races_, all _colors_,-blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans-in _true_ brotherhood! In unity! Living as one! Worshiping as one! No segregationists-no liberals; they would not have known how to interpret the meaning of those words.
“In the past, yes, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people. I never will be guilty of that again-as I know now that some white people are truly sincere, that some truly are capable of being brotherly toward a black man. The true Islam has shown me that a blanket indictment of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments against blacks.
“Yes, I have been convinced that _some_ American whites do want to help cure the rampant racism which is on the path to _destroying_ this country!
“It was in the Holy World that my attitude was changed, by what I experienced there, and by what I witnessed there, in terms of brotherhood-not just brotherhood toward me, but brotherhood between all men, of all nationalitiesand complexions, who were there. And now that I am back in America, my attitude here concerning white people has to be governed by what my black brothers and I experience here, and what we witness here-in terms of brotherhood. The _problem_ here in America is that we meet such a small minority of individual so-called ‘good,’ or ‘brotherly’ white people. Here in the United States, notwithstanding those few ‘good’ white people, it is the _collective_ 150 million white people whom the _collective_ 22 million black people have to deal with!
“Why, here in America, the seeds of racism are so deeply rooted in the white people collectively, their belief that they are ‘superior’ in some way is so deeply rooted, that these things are in the national white subconsciousness. Many whites are even actually unaware of their own racism, until they face some test, and then their racism emerges in one form or another.
“Listen! The white man’s racism toward the black man here in America is what has got him in such trouble all over this world, with other non-white peoples. The white man can’t separate himself from the stigma that he automatically feels about anyone, no matter who, who is not his color. And the non-white peoples of the world are sick of the condescending white man! That’s why you’ve got all of this trouble in places like Viet Nam. Or right here in the Western Hemisphere-probably 100 million people of African descent are divided against each other, taught by the white man to hate and to mistrust each other. In the West Indies, Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, all of South America, Central America! All of those lands are full of people with African blood! On the African continent, even, the white man has maneuvered to divide the black African from the brown Arab, to divide the so-called ‘Christian African’ from the Muslim African. Can you imagine what can happen, what would certainly happen, if all of these African-heritage peoples ever _realize_ their blood bonds, if they ever realize they all have a common goal-if they ever _unite_?”
The press was glad to get rid of me that day. I believe that the black brothers whom I had just recently left in Africa would have felt that I did the subject justice. Nearly through the night, my telephone at home kept ringing. My black brothers and sisters around New York and in some other cities were calling to congratulate me on what they had heard on the radio and television news broadcasts, and people, mostly white, were wanting to know if I would speak here or there.
The next day I was in my car driving along the freeway when at a red light another car pulled alongside. A white woman was driving and on the passenger’s side, next to me, was a white man. “_Malcolm X_!” he called out-and when I looked, he stuck his hand out of his car, across at me, grinning. “Do you mind shaking hands with a white man?” Imagine that! Just as the traffic light turned green, I told him, “I don’t mind shaking hands with human beings. Are you one?”
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/