Malcolm X: “Message to the Grass Roots”

(1963)

Malcolm X’s “Message to the Grass Roots,” delivered in a Detroit church in 1963, is typically direct, blunt, and uncompromising. Malcolm X gained great fame in his own lifetime largely as the result of his provocative—and some would say inflammatory—speeches. He created the persona of an angry black man, critical of mainstream civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Malcolm X rejected the doctrine of nonviolence and the Christian tradition that inspired King and many of his followers. It seemed especially sinister to some that he advocated African American self-defense “by any means necessary” (a term he used in several speeches). It did not seem to be the case that he was preaching revolution, however, because as a minister of the Nation of Islam, he was committed to supporting a program of self-help within the African American community. Unlike radical groups such as the Black Panthers, Black Muslims did not engage in confrontations with the...

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Malcolm X (Library of Congress)

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