Jonathan Eig, the bestselling author behind Ali and King, made a shocking discovery this week that could dispel the long-rumored rivalry between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.
MORE: 20 Malcolm X Quotes Every Black Person Should Know
As he was searching through the Duke University archives, Eig came across an unedited transcript of MLK’s 1965 Playboy Interview, in which he famously accused the Black Muslim civil rights leader of being a “fiery, demagogic oratory.”
After scouring the 84-page transcript to find the exact quote, Eig discovered that MLK’s harsh criticism of Malcolm X may have been fabricated, according to his latest interview with The Washington Post.
The transcript revealed Dr. King’s words were taken out of context.
The famed writer said he carefully assessed the transcript of the famous interview conducted by Black journalist Alex Haley, to find several inconsistencies.
On page 60 of the 84-page document, Haley reportedly asked the Atlanta-bred civil rights legend:
“Dr. King, would you care to comment upon the articulate former Black Muslim, Malcolm X?”
“I have met Malcolm X, but circumstances didn’t enable me to talk with him for more than a minute. I totally disagree with many of his political and philosophical views, as I understand them. He is very articulate, as you say. I don’t want to seem to sound as if I feel so self-righteous, or absolutist, that I think I have the only truth, the only way. Maybe he does have some of the answer. But I know that I have so often felt that I wished that he would talk less of violence, because I don’t think that violence can solve our problem. And in his litany of expressing the despair of the Negro, without offering a positive, creative approach, I think that he falls into a rut sometimes.”
But in the original Playboy interview, King’s response appears like this:
“And in his litany of articulating the despair of the Negro without offering any positive, creative alternative, I feel that Malcolm has done himself and our people a great disservice. Fiery, demagogic oratory in the black ghettos, urging Negroes to arm themselves and prepare to engage in violence, as he has done, can reap nothing but grief.”
MLK‘s controversial “demagogic” comment was taken out of context. Earlier in the interview, the minister said the quote as he shared his thoughts on Black extremists, but he did not mention the former Nation Of Islam leader.
Additionally, Eig noted that the late minister never said Malcolm was doing a “disservice” to the Black community anywhere throughout the lengthy transcript.
The American journalist believes Haley may have twisted the civil rights leader’s words.
“We should remember that King was always more radical than we like to imagine or talk about,” Eig told the Washington Post. “He was a Christian radical, and his radicalism came from a different place than Malcolm’s did, but they always had a lot in common. They always believed that you had to take radical steps to change America, to end racism, to create a country that lived up to the words of its promises.”
During his rise to prominence, Malcolm grew famous for calling out King’s advocacy for nonviolence in the fight for civil rights. On one occasion, the Omaha legend called Dr. King a “modern Uncle Tom,” for his peaceful approach to activism. But Eig says that Malcolm had a motive behind his madness.
“King saw value in being a foil to Malcolm sometimes, too. But I think at their core they had a lot in common. They certainly shared a lot of the same goals,” the journalist added.
Malcolm X reached out to MLK with the hope of collaborating, according to historians.
Several historians believe that Malcolm and Dr. King shared a mutual respect for one another, although they may not have seen eye to eye on their methods for solving race and inequality issues in America.
On March 26, 1964, both legendary civil rights activists bumped into each other following an afternoon press conference. The men smiled and laughed as they shook hands in front of photographers. It was the first and last time they would cross paths, but behind all of the smoke and mirrors, both leaders admired each other’s work from afar.
Before their tragic deaths, Malcolm X and King began to adopt similar views on how to tackle the race problem in Black America.
“In the last years of their lives, they were starting to move toward one another,” writer David Howard-Pitney told CNN during an interview. “While Malcolm is moderating from his earlier position, King is becoming more militant.”
Before he stepped away from the Nation of Islam in 1964, Malcolm reached out to King on several occasions to collaborate. According to Andrew Young, a member of King’s inner circle at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the radical luminary stopped by the SCLC office hoping to chat with Dr. King.
“Unfortunately, Dr. King was never there when he came,” Young said.
In 1965, Malcolm tried to meet the legendary civil rights leader again, this time in Selma, Alabama. He wanted to lead a campaign with King.
“Brother Malcolm was definitely making an outreach to some civil rights leaders,” A. Peter Bailey, an original member of Malcolm X’s The Organization of Afro-American Unity added to CNN. “He believed that the one who would be most responsive would be Dr. King.”
The Muslim leader was inspired by King’s activism and following. “He had come to believe that King believed in what he was doing,” Bailey added. “He believed in nonviolence; it just wasn’t a show. He developed a respect for him. I heard him say you have to give respect to men who put their lives on the line.”
Dr. King adopted some of Malcolm X’s radical views towards the end of his life.
Although the two never met again, King seemed to gravitate toward Malcom’s radical approach during the last three years of his life.
As he shifted to the North to fight civil rights issues, the fearless advocate spoke loudly and proudly about the importance of Black pride, eliminating poverty and providing a guaranteed annual income for all U.S. citizens. He even spoke publicly against the Vietnam War.
Before King died in 1968, journalist David Halberstam joked that the minister “sounded like a nonviolent Malcolm X,” Pitney added.
During an interview with PBS, Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King revealed that the civil rights giant never took Malcolm’s disparaging comments to heart.
“I know Martin had the greatest respect for Malcolm …,” she said. “I think that if Malcolm had lived, at some point the two would have come closer together and would have been a very strong force.”
What do you think of this new transcript?
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