UPDATED: 6:00 a.m. ET, May 19, 2023
In the history of African Americans who fought for the rights of our people, a conversation cannot go by without mentioning the great Malcolm X.
May 19, 1925, is the birthday of the great civil rights leader who was killed by an assassin’s bullet. On Friday, he would have turned 98 years old.
As an example of how prophetic the man was, take a look at some of the words he spoke in life that have stood the test of time since his untimely demise in 1965.
1. If you’re not ready to die for it, take the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.
— Chicago Defender (November 28, 1962)
2. We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.
— Founding Rally Speech, OAAU (June 28, 1964)
3. Power never takes a back step only in the face of more power.
Socialist Workers Party’s Militant Labor Forum in New York City, January 7, 1965
4. If, if a white man puts his arm around me voluntarily, that’s brotherhood. But if you – if you hold a gun on him and make him embrace me and pretend to be friendly or brotherly toward me, then that’s not brotherhood, that’s hypocrisy.”
Interview conducted by reporter Eleanor Fischer in 1961
5. You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
Prospects for Freedom speech in New York City, Jan. 7, 1965.
6. The common goal of 22 million Afro-Americans is respect as human beings, the God-given right to be a human being. Our common goal is to obtain the human rights that America has been denying us. We can never get civil rights in America until our human rights are first restored. We will never be recognized as citizens there until we are first recognized as humans.
Racism: The Cancer that is Destroying America, in Egyptian Gazette, Aug. 25, 1964.
7. I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn’t know how to return the treatment.
New York City speech, Dec. 12, 1964.
8. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner. You must be eating some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American.
The Ballot or the Bullet speech, April 3, 1964, Cleveland, Ohio.
9. There is nothing in our book, the Qur’an, that teaches us to suffer peacefully. Our religion teaches us to be intelligent. Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery. That’s a good religion.
Message to the Grass Roots speech, Nov. 1963, Detroit.
10. If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.
New York City speech, November 1963.
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