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The Making of African American Identity: Volume III, 1917-1968
Theme: SegregationTheme: MigrationsTheme: ProtestTheme: CommunityTheme: Overcome?
Theme: Community

Malcolm X, Chicago, 1963, by Gordon Parks
Global Community
- Malcolm X, "Not Just an American Problem, But a World Problem," address delivered in Corn Hill Methodist Church, Rochester, New York, 16 February 1965 (PDF)

By calling her sculpture Black Unity rather than African American Unity, Elizabeth Catlett globalized its significance (see #9: Image of Community, 1968). It could thus stand as a fitting emblem for the speech Malcolm X delivered in Rochester, New York, on February 16, 1965, just five days before his assassination. In it he relates the American civil rights movement to similar struggles throughout the world. "You can't even follow the local issue," he told his audience, "unless you know what part it plays in the entire international context." He devotes considerable time to the role of "image making," describing how those who control its apparatus inflict deep psychological damage upon black people. He also charts the evolution of the image of Africa from a place populated by natives who wear bones and beat drums to a place populated by men and women who speak proper English and enjoy greater freedom than American blacks. As in "The Ballot or the Bullet" (see Theme III: PROTEST), he makes the point that the levers of American political power are in the hands of racists who will never willingly or effectively use them on behalf of blacks. Throughout his speech he refuses to embrace the United States as his own, referring to it as "your country," never "my country." While he does not explicitly urge his audience to adopt his stance, he does suggest that African Americans might cultivate a sense of identity and community that transcends nationality and connects with dark-skinned brothers and sisters throughout the globe. (16 pages.)

Discussion questions
  1. According to Malcolm X, why does the black liberation struggle involve more than simply the civil rights movement in the United States?
  2. How does he define the global black community?
  3. According to Malcolm X, what unites black people throughout Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States?
  4. Compare Malcolm X's comments on "image making" with those of Larry Neal on the need for black art.
  5. How does Malcolm X relate the local to the global?
  6. Why, according to Malcolm X, is international pressure necessary for the success of the civil rights movement in the United States?
  7. What, according to Malcolm X, did Africa mean to African Americans before 1959? after 1959? What accounts for the change?
  8. Compare the ways Malcolm X portrays Africa in the African American consciousness with the ways writers and artists of the New Negro Movement portrayed it.
  9. Compare Malcolm X's comments on integration to those of Stokely Carmichael in "Toward Black Liberation" (see Theme I: SEGREGATION).

Framing Questions
  •  How has the African American community defined itself?
  •  How has the African American community functioned in the lives of its members?
  •  How have changing notions of African American identity affected definitions of African American community?

Malcolm X address: 16 pages
Supplemental Sites
Malcolm X, overview in the Martin Luther King, Jr., Encyclopedia, King Papers Project, Stanford University

The Malcolm X Project, Columbia University

Malcolm X, "The Ballot or the Bullet," address, Cory Methodist Church, Cleveland, Ohio, 3 April 1964
  - Text
  - Audio

Malcolm X, address, "What Does Mississippi Have to Do With Harlem? 1964, in Eyes on the Prize (PBS)

Malcolm X, address in Detroit, 14 February 1965, after the bombing of his New York City residence, from

*PDF file - You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you may download it FREE from Adobe's Web site.

Image: Malcolm X addressing a Black Muslim rally in Chicago, 1963, photograph by Gordon Parks. © Gordon Parks. Permission pending.

1. Community as Place   2. Community on Film
  3. Community & Self-Help   4. Image, Community 1939   5. Race as Community
6. Community & the Folk   7. Community & Memory
8. Community & Culture   9. Image, Community 1968   10. Global Community

TOOLBOX: The Making of African American Identity: Volume III, 1917-1968
Segregation | Migrations | Protest | Community | Overcome?

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Revised: August 2007