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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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  While in prison, Malcolm had two profound conversions: intellectual and spiritual. Through the example

of an inmate, he discovered the power of intellect. He became a voracious reader, disciplined thinker,

and skilled debater. In 1948, under the influence of his family, Malcolm became a member

of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam (NOI)



Books by James Cone

God of the Oppressed  / A Black Theology of Liberation  / For My People, Black Theology and the Black Church

Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare (1992)  / Black Theology and Black Power

Risks of Faith: The Emergence of a Black Theology of  Liberation, 1968-1998   /  The Spiritual and the Blues: An Interpretation

Black Theology: A Documentary History: Volume Two: 1980-1992  /  My Soul Looks Back

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Books by & About Malcolm X

Malcolm X: The Man and His Times  /  Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X  / Martin and Malcolm and America 

Ghosts in Our Blood: With Malcolm X in Africa, England, and the Caribbean

 The Black Muslims in America The Autobiography of Malcolm X  / Malcolm X Speaks / By Any Means Necessary

February 1965: The Final Speeches

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Books by and about Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love / The Measure of a Man Why We Can't Wait

A Testament of Hope  /  A Knock at Midnight   /  The Papers of  Martin Luther King, Jr., 1948-1963


Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story


Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation


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Non-Violence v Self-Defense

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Martin and Malcolm on Nonviolence and Violence

By James H. Cone


No issue has been more hotly debated in the African-American community than violence and nonviolence. No two persons symbolize this debate more than Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. They represent two radically different responses to nonviolence and violence in the black freedom movement during the 1960s. Their perspectives are still widely discussed and debated today but seldom understood. Martin King’s followers frequently misrepresent Malcolm X’s views, referring to him as a “messiah of hate” from a “black Ku Klux Klan of racial extremists.” Malcolm X’s followers distort Martin King’s views, often calling him a “twentieth-century religious Uncle Tom pacifist”—the best weapon of whites who want to brutalize black people. Any view can be discredited by simplifying it to the level of caricature.

In this essay, I present a brief analysis of Martin’s and Malcolm’s views on nonviolence and violence, beginning with Martin’s view because Malcolm’s perspective was developed largely as a critical response to the white and black media’s presentation of Martin’s views as normative for the African American community.

I. Martin

Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor and civil rights leader and was arguably not only America’s most distinguished theologian but also the most influential American in the twentieth century. He was named Time’s “Man of the Year” in 1963 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He is the only American with a nationally holiday in his name alone. With the support of many ordinary people in the black freedom movement, King’s practice and thought radically transformed America’s understanding of itself and inspired liberation movements around the world. One can hardly go anywhere and not encounter his moral influence.

Martin King is best known as America’s preeminent advocate of nonviolence. From the time of the yearlong triumphant Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott (1955–56) to his tragic assassination in Memphis, Tennessee (April 4, 1968), Martin King embraced nonviolence absolutely. For King, nonviolence was not only an effective strategy of social change, it was the heart of his philosophy of life. There was no limit to his advocacy of nonviolence in conflict situations. He contended that nonviolence was the most potent weapon for blacks in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and for other oppressed peoples struggling for justice throughout the world. Nonviolence was not only the best tool for solving conflicts within nations, it could also resolve difference between nations. For King, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by several nations created the situation in which “the choice is no longer between nonviolence and violence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”1

The roots of Martin King’s journey to nonviolence lie in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was born on January 15, 1929. As the son of the Reverend Martin Luther King Sr., who was the pastor of the prestigious Ebenezer Baptist Church, young Martin was nurtured in the black Baptist tradition of the Christian faith. He followed his father into the ordained ministry in his late teens. The Christian idea of love, as expressed in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and his sacrificial death on the cross, was the hallmark of the black religious experience that shaped King’s perspective. He combined Christian love with the accommodative and protest philosophies of Booker T. Washington and the NAACP. Together these ideas provided the religious and political resources for King to develop a militant nonviolent philosophy of social change in the context of the black struggle for racial justice in America.

The development of Martin King’s philosophy of nonviolence was a gradual process. Initially, his unpleasant childhood experiences with racial segregation had a profoundly negative effect on his attitude toward whites. He was introduced to racial prejudice at the early age of five when the father of his white friend told young Martin that his son could no longer play with him because he was colored. This and other encounters with white prejudice shook King deeply and thereby made it difficult to love whites as he was taught at home and church. At one point during his early years, he was determined to hate all whites.

Martin King’s negative attitude toward whites started to change through the influence of religion, education, and personal encounters with moderate whites in an intercollegiate organization and later at Crozer Theological Seminary (Chester, Pennsylvania) and Boston University School of Theology. At Morehouse College, he read Henry David Thoreau’s “Essay on Civil Disobedience” and was introduced to a wide range of political and religious philosophies that supported the integration of Negroes into the mainstream of American society. In graduate school, King not only met liberal whites as teachers and fellow students, he also encounter progressive theological and philosophical ideas that reinforced his beliefs about justice and love, integration and the beloved community.

He read books and essays about and by Mahatma Gandhi, Water Rauschenbusch, and Reinhold Niebuhr at Crozer. At Boston, under the tutelage of Edgar Sheffield Brightman and L. Harold DeWolf, King acquired a sophisticated knowledge of Personalism—a philosophy that accented the infinite value of the human person.

A year prior to his completion of doctoral studies, Martin King accepted the call to become the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama—a middle class church whose membership included many professors and administrators of Alabama State University. When Rosa Parks was arrested (December 1, 1955) because she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, the black community was enraged. In protest, they initiated a boycott of the city buses (December 5) and asked King to be their leader.

Martin King was not committed to nonviolence at the beginning of the bus protest. As white violence became increasingly focused on King personally through police harassment, the bombing of his home, volumes of hate mail, and frequent telephone threats of harm, King, seeking to protect himself and his family from white violence, applied for a gun permit, which, of course, was rejected. The threat of violence was so real that armed blacks took turns guarding King’s home. King also kept a loaded gun in his house, which Bayard Rustin of the War Resistance League nearly sat on during a visit.

The most important factor that influenced Martin King to reject self-defense and adopt nonviolence was his personal appropriation of the faith of his parents and the black church. The decisive point occurred a few weeks after the inauguration of the Montgomery bus boycott, January 27, 1956. He received a nasty telephone call about midnight: “Listen, nigger, we’ve taken all we want from you; before next week you’ll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.” Though he was accustomed to receiving about forty threats daily, for some reason this one stunned him, preventing him from going back to sleep. Martin began to realize, as he often said later in his sermons, that his wife and newly born baby daughter could be taken from him or he from them at any moment.

He got up out of bed and went to the kitchen to heat some coffee, hoping it would provide some relief. None came. He reflected back on the theologies and philosophies he had studied in graduate school, searching for a way to cope with the problem of evil and suffering but they provided no help in his moment of distress. He was “ready to give up” and tried to think of a way to remove himself from the leadership of the boycott without looking like a coward. Exhausted, he had lost his courage.

King decided to take the problem to the God his parents told him about—the One they and other black Christians said could “make a way out of no way.” “With my head in my hands,” King recalled, “I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed … ‘I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I’m afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.’ ”

It was in the midst of this crisis of faith that Martin King felt an inner voice saying to him: “Stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice, stand up for truth, and lo, I will be with you always.” After that revelatory experience, he said: “I was ready to face anything.”

Three nights later, Martin King’s house was bombed and people were amazed how calm he was. After finding out that his wife and baby were safe, he walked on his porch to face an angry black crowd with weapons of violence, ready to return an eye for an eye. “Don’t let us get panicky,” King said. He pleaded with them to get rid of their weapons because “we can’t solve this problem through retaliatory violence.” On the contrary, “We must meet violence with nonviolence.” Turning to the most persuasive authority in the black Christian experience, King reminded blacks of the words of Jesus: “ ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.’ We must love our white brothers … no matter what they do to us.”

These are difficult words for any person or community, especially for an oppressed black community, which has lived under the psychological and physical brutalities of white supremacy for nearly four centuries. Black people get tired of turning the other cheek in the face of white brutality. Montgomery blacks accepted King’s appeal because he connected it with their belief that there was a divine power in the world greater than the forces of white supremacy.2

It was one thing to love individual whites personally but quite another to use love as a political instrument of social change. It was Gandhi who provided Martin King with the philosophical and political insight of nonviolent direct action. With a deeper knowledge of Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence and its application in South Africa and India, King became a firm believer and astute defender of nonviolence. Jesus Christ defined the center of King’s religious understanding of love, and Gandhi showed him how to use love as an instrument to transform society.

King’s commitment to nonviolence was also informed by his knowledge of liberal Protestant theology and the philosophy of Personalism, both of which emphasized the oneness and infinite value of humanity. King combined these intellectual resources with black faith and Gandhi, and from these three sources created a distinctive and persuasive perspective on nonviolence.

Martin King not only preached nonviolence during the Montgomery bus boycott, he founded a national organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in order to demonstrate the power of nonviolence to achieve justice in every segment of American life. The officers were mostly ministers, and its motto was “to redeem the soul of America.”

For King, love was the most powerful force in the world, and nonviolence was love expressed politically. Because nonviolence was widely thought of by many people as “doing nothing,” King repeatedly emphasized the active dimensions of nonviolence. It was only passive in the sense of refusing to inflict physical harm on others. Nonviolence, therefore, was not a method for cowards—people afraid to suffer for the cause of justice. Nonviolence resists evil but it refuses to commit evil. Even the enemy is a person and must be treated as such. The nonviolent activist does not insult or seek to destroy the opponent but rather seeks to make the enemy a friend. However, even if nonviolence fails to convert the enemy to a friend, it eliminates hate from the hearts of those who are committed to it. Nonviolence bestows courage and self-respect to oppressed people who were once consumed by fear and low self-esteem.

King believed that only moral means could achieve moral ends, because “the end is preexistent in the means.”3 Violence, therefore, was “both impractical and immoral.”4 As a ten-percent minority in the richest and most powerful nation in the world, it was ludicrous to think that blacks could achieve freedom through violence. Even though most blacks were not morally committed to nonviolence, King persuaded them to adopt it as the best strategy for achieving justice.

The practical arguments for nonviolence were for those who could not accept it morally. From the Montgomery bus boycott (1955) to the Selma March (1965), Martin King inspired African Americans to hold firmly to nonviolence in their struggle for justice. The success of the student sit-ins (1960), the Freedom Rides (1961), the Birmingham demonstrations (1963), and the March on Washington (1963) provided King with the opportunity to demonstrate the power of nonviolence in destroying legal segregation in American life. The triumphant march from Selma to Montgomery was the climax of the first phase of the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) were its major political achievements.

It was much easier to advocate nonviolence when there were concrete victories and few serious challenges to its advocacy. Malcolm X was the most effective critic of King and nonviolence. But he was a marginal figure in the southern-based Civil Rights Movement. After the Watts riots in Los Angeles (August 1965) and the rise of Black Power (June 1966), King’s views on nonviolence were seriously challenged by young movement activists who became disillusioned with the relevance of nonviolence for bestowing self-esteem and eliminating poverty in the black community of the urban ghettoes of the North. They turned to Malcolm X’s Black Nationalist self-defense philosophy as an alternative to Martin King.

Martin King was forced to defend nonviolence among critics who were captivated by the legacy of Malcolm X, powerfully expressed in the rise of Black Power. King met his critics head-on and challenged them to prove that Black Power was more effective than nonviolence in achieving real results. Though many black militants rejected King’s views on nonviolence and integration, they admired his courage and respected his commitment to principle.

Martin King’s stature in the white community continued to increase as long as he persuaded blacks to hold firmly to nonviolence. But they rejected him when he applied his views to America as a nation. King’s opposition to America’s war in Vietnam won him few friends in government and the society at large. Most whites acknowledged that King was an expert on civil rights as long as he urged blacks to be nonviolent in their struggle for justice. They told King to stick to civil rights and leave peace issues between nations to the elected politicians and their advisers. The idea that a black preacher’s views on America’s foreign policy should be taken seriously was ludicrous to most whites, especially to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who saw himself as the Negro’s best friend in government. What right did King had to criticize American and its president when they had done so much for the Negro?

Between 1966 and 1968, King struggled against an American public that resisted further advances in civil rights and resented his claim that America was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”5 King’s political optimism in the early phase of Civil Rights Movement was transformed into a tough religious hope, derived from his deep belief that “unearned suffering is redemptive.”6

King’s faith in nonviolence was first and foremost an unshakable religious commitment. Although he preached the strategic value of nonviolence, the essence of King’s belief was acceptance of it as a way of life, “because of the sheer morality of its claim.”7 Thus even in defeat, nonviolence still wins. This is so because the universe is moving toward justice. No person or nation can prevent its ultimate realization. This faith sustained the later King his struggle to achieve economic justice for garbage workers in Memphis as he was preparing for the Poor People’s Campaign to pressure the federal government to withdraw from the war in Vietnam and to intensify instead the War on Poverty. An assassin’s bullet ended King’s life while he was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. But his hope still lives on in those who today fight for justice.

II. Malcolm

When we turn to Malcolm X, we hear a different voice from that of Martin King, one that whites and some blacks found most disturbing to their religious and political sensibilities. Malcolm X was a Muslim minister and Black Nationalist leader, who was the most formidable race critic in American history. More effectively than anyone else, he exposed the racist hypocrisy of American democracy and the ethical contradictions of white Christianity. His unrelenting and uncompromising critique of America and Christianity was bold and devastating. Few people could listen to him and not be challenged by the cogency of his analysis.

Malcolm focused his criticism on the failure of white people to treat black people as human beings. That and that alone was the heart of his critique. There is nothing fancy or sophisticated about it. Just plain talk—telling the truth about the crimes against blacks that whites did not want to hear about and few blacks had the courage to confront.

Whites enslaved blacks for 244 years, segregated them for another 100, and lynched them all along the way whenever and wherever whites had a mind to demonstrate their absolute power over blacks. How could American whites exclude blacks and other people of color from the political process and yet say that this nation is the land of the free? How could white Christians treat blacks as brutes and still claim love as their central religious principle? With rage, humor, and devastating logic, Malcolm had a field day exposing these political and religious contradictions.

Malcolm’s articulation of the gap between the American creed and dead angered many whites because he spoke forcefully and bluntly, refusing to sugarcoat the truth about the crimes whites committed against blacks. He not only spoke out passionately against the brutality and cowardice of the Ku Klux Kan but also against the structural and hidden violence of the American government. “Stop talking about Mississippi,” he railed. “America is Mississippi!”8 To understand Malcolm’s perspective on violence, it is necessary to view it within the political and religious context of America’s nearly four centuries of racist violence against blacks and its white Christian justification and tolerance.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, May 19, 1925, Malcolm lived when America was defined by overt racist violence. Segregation was the law of the land, the KKK was marching, lynching was commonplace, and the government, educational institutions, and the churches routinely practiced and openly taught that blacks were inferior—both mentally and physically. No black person could escape the physical and psychological violence of white supremacy.

Malcolm’s father Earl Little, a Baptist preacher and follower of the Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey, was a special target of white hate groups. While Malcolm was still in his mother’s womb, the KKK paid the Little family a visit and forced their move from Omaha to Lansing, Michigan, where at the age of four Malcolm witnessed the burning down of their home by white hate group called the Black Legionnaires. Malcolm called the event “the nightmare night in 1929.”9 Two years later, Malcolm claimed that the same group killed his father, leaving the family fatherless and soon penniless. Unable to cope, Malcolm’s mother, Louise Little, had a mental breakdown and was hospitalized in Kalamazoo.

The Little children were placed in foster homes. After Malcolm’s white eight-grade teacher told him that a lawyer was “no realistic goal for a nigger,”10 he became disillusioned, despite being at the top of his class. He dropped out of school and went to Boston and then to New York where he became a dealer in drugs, prostitution, numbers running, and con games. He described himself as “a predatory animal” who “deliberately invited death.”11 Before he reached his twenty-first birthday, Malcolm was arrested for armed robbery and sentenced to eight-to-ten years at a Massachusetts’ prison in February 1946.

While in prison, Malcolm had two profound conversions: intellectual and spiritual. Through the example of an inmate, he discovered the power of intellect. He became a voracious reader, disciplined thinker, and skilled debater. In 1948, under the influence of his family, Malcolm became a member of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam (NOI) and its most effective recruiter and articulate defender. The NOI reversed the value system of white America by making everything black good and everything white evil. It substituted black supremacy for white supremacy. While Malcolm accepted the theology of the NOI, it was its Black Nationalist philosophy, emphasizing blacks self-respect and self-defense, which inspired his intellectual imagination and fueled his religious commitment.

He enjoyed giving whites the same medicine they dished out to blacks. Unlike Martin, who had no taste for violence in any form, Malcolm viewed retaliatory violence as a necessary response to criminal acts. That is the only language criminals understand, he contended. To love someone who hates you is to speak a language they do not understand, like speaking French to a person who only knows German. Malcolm learned this eye-for-an-eye principle on the streets of Boston and New York where survival depended on doing to others before they did it to you. He also learned it from reading American history, which is replete with genocidal acts against the native people of the land and wherever this nation decided to raise the American flag. That was why Malcolm said the white man made the mistake of letting me read his history books.

Malcolm was released from prison in August 1952 and quickly became the most influential minister in the NOI—second only to the Messenger, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, as Malcolm and other follower called him. Malcolm was appointed to head the prestigious Temple Number 7 in New York and became the NOI’s national spokesperson, lecturing and debating white and black intellectuals at America’s most prestigious universities.12 He distinguished himself as the most feared, controversial, and articulate race critic in America. Since the overt racist violence of the southern conservatives was obvious and effectively exposed in the media by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X focused his critique on the covert racist violence of northern white liberals.

Malcolm’s attack on white liberals was persistent and brutal. He exposed their link to the creation of the urban black ghetto where drugs, poverty, crime, unemployment, and bad housing are the defining characteristics. While Martin King praised white liberals for their support, Malcolm castigated them for their hypocrisy—professing to be for integration while creating de facto segregation in schools, housing, and other segments of American life. When blacks manage to move in a white community, the liberals are the first to leave.

No issue angered Malcolm X more than what whites said about violence and nonviolence in the Civil Rights Movement. They urged blacks to follow Martin King—embrace nonviolence and reject violence in any form. Malcolm could hardly contain his rage as he pointed out the contradictions between what whites advised blacks to do to get their freedom and what they did to attain their own. Patrick Henry did not practice the virtues of nonviolence. George Washington was no pacifist. When whites feel that their rights have been violated, they do not advocate turning the other cheek or kneeling down to pray. Because whites did not apply to themselves the same moral logic they urged upon blacks, Malcolm regard them as the worst hypocrites on the planet.

Malcolm did not advocate violence; he advocated self-defense. He believed that the right of self-defense is an essential element in the definition of humanity. Whites have always recognized this principle for themselves but not for blacks. This kind of racist thinking infuriated Malcolm. If whites have the right to defend themselves against their enemies, why not blacks? Malcolm used provocative language to express his rage. “If you want to know what I’ll do, figure out what you’ll do. I’ll do the same thing—only more of it.”13 He contended that blacks should use “any means necessary” to get their freedom and whites should be prepared for “reciprocal bleeding.” He did not regard such language as violent. He called it intelligence. “A black man has the right to do whatever is necessary to get his freedom that other human beings have done to get their freedom.”14

Malcolm regarded nonviolence as a ridiculous philosophy, one that whites would never embrace as their own. He never understood why Martin King adopted it. How could blacks be regarded as human beings if they do not defend themselves? Everything in creation has a right to defend itself except the American Negro. It pained Malcolm to see black women, men, and children being beaten, kicked, and attacked by dogs. If the government does not protect black people, they are within their right to protect themselves, he contended.

In contrast to the portrayal of Martin King as a promoter of love and nonviolence, the media portrayed Malcolm as a preacher of hate and violence. They also, along with the FBI, were effective in creating dissension within the NOI, especially between Malcolm and Muhammad. In December 1963, Muhammad suspended Malcolm, purported for saying that the assassination of President Kennedy was a case of the “chickens coming home to roost.”

Three months later, Malcolm bolted from the NOI. He made a pilgrimage to Mecca, became a Sunni Muslim, adopted the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, and rejected the racist ideology of the NOI.

Malcolm also went to Africa to connect the black freedom movement in the U.S. with liberation movements around the world. “It is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as a simply a racial conflict of blacks against whites, or as a purely American problem,” he said at Barnard College. “Rather we are today seeking a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter.”15

While Malcolm’s separation from the NOI and subsequent experience in Mecca and Africa had a profound effect on his philosophy of freedom, causing him to reject the racist ideology of Elijah Muhammad, he did not relinquish his self-defense philosophy or his radical critique of white supremacy. For Malcolm, white America remained a racist nation and Christianity white nationalism.

The animosity between Malcolm and the NOI deepened. They firebombed Malcolm’s house one week before a team of assassins murdered him, as he was about to speak at the Audubon Ballroom, February 21, 1965. It was widely said that Malcolm died by the violence he fomented. But it is more accurate to say that he died exposing white violence and fighting for the freedom of African Americans and other oppressed peoples throughout the world.

III. Conclusion

Both Martin and Malcolm were thirty-nine when they were assassinated. Ironically, the blacks Malcolm loved killed him. They could not tolerate Malcolm’s truth. It was too powerful, too profoundly human, transcending race and other reactionary limits.

A lone gunman killed Martin. He symbolized white America’s inability to tolerate any black person who refuses to stay in his or her place. Staying in an assigned place is something that neither Martin nor Malcolm could do. Their spirits were too powerful to be contained or restrained. In this sense, Martin and Malcolm followed the path of Jesus the Galilean whose rebellion against the place assigned him led to the cross.

Most theologians, especially in the U.S., find their assigned places quite comfortable. They stay in their places and write essays and books about this and that but say very little if anything about the inhuman places this society assigns to the poor and people of color. They are liked the learned of Jesus’ time. They get bogged down in things that may be intellectually interesting for their group but hardly matter when considered in the light of what the gospel demands of us today.

We need theologians and preachers like Martin and Malcolm to show us the way so we will be able to make the gospel of Jesus so plain that no one will be able to claim they did not know what it demands of us.

We today have much to learn from Martin and Malcolm as we seek to create a community, nation, and world that are both just and peaceful. They were both disciplined thinkers and responsible activists. Though their views on nonviolence and violence were different, they complemented and corrected each other, showing us that an abstract, absolutist, and uncritical commitment to violence or nonviolence, to Malcolm or Martin, is wrongheaded. We do not need to choose between Martin and Malcolm but rather to acknowledge the value in both.

Our primary task is to do today what Martin and Malcolm did in theirs. We must not simply adopt Martin or Malcolm or both and think that we have the answers to our racial problems. We should stand on their intellectual and spiritual foundation. But their thought cannot serve as a substitute for our own thinking. We have to think for ourselves because we have problems that Martin and Malcolm never faced. We should use them as the springboard for our creative thinking and militant action.

Our reflective task is not easy and it will take a lot of hard, disciplined thinking about freedom—what it means and how to achieve it. Martin’s and Malcolm’s life and writings give us theoretical ideas and practical examples to work with. They remind us that we are a part of a great African American intellectual tradition that stretches back to Ida B. Wells and W. E. B. Du Bois, Sojourner Truth and Fredrick Douglass, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker, Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko. With these revolutionary resources, we have enough intellectual and spiritual power to move into the twenty-first century—ready to face anything that hinders our freedom. If we stand together as proud, disciplined thinkers and militant, action people, the movement for justice will not be contained.

I hope we will not let our differences destroy our much-needed unity. We can learn from Martin and Malcolm about how to be different and yet work together for the same cause. I only hope we can sustain our struggle for freedom and keep on keeping on, so that our children and our children’s children will be able to live in a clean and safe environment and a just and peaceful world.


1 Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. James M. Washington (San Francisco: Harper, 1986), 39.

2 See Martin Luther King Jr., Stride Toward Freedom (New York: Harper, 1958) 134–8 for his account of this experience and for the citations. For additional accounts of this experience, see his sermons “Our God is Able,” in Strength to Love (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1963), 112–3., and “Thou Fool,” sermon given 27 August 1967 at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Chicago, IL. Martin Luther King Jr. Papers, Martin Luther King Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Atlanta, GA.

3 A Testament of Hope, 45.

4 Ibid., 17.

5 Ibid., 233.

6 Ibid., 18, 41.

7 Ibid., 17.

8 Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks, ed. George Breitman (New York: Grove, 1965), 108.

9 Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, with Alex Haley (reprint, New York: Ballantine, 1973), 3.

10 Ibid., 36.

11 Ibid., 134, 138.

12 Among them were Harvard (three times), Yale (twice), Cornell, the University of Chicago, Berkeley, and Oxford in England. For an excellent account of Malcolm’s debates, see Robert James Branham, “ ‘I Was Gone on Debating’: Malcolm X’s Prison Debates and Public Confrontations,” Argumentation and Advocacy 31 (Winter 1995): 117–37.

13 Malcolm X Speaks, 197–98.

14 Ibid., 113.

15 Ibid., 217.

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James H. Cone is the Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Among his many influential books is Risk of Faith: The Emergence of Black Theology of Liberation, 1968–1998 (1999). His inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture was delivered in Miller Chapel on April 5, 1999

Source: The Princeton Seminary Bulletin •James F. Kay, Editor • Princeton Theological Seminary • Princeton, New Jersey

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Malcolm X artifacts unearthed—Police docs and more found among belongs of 'Shorty' Jarvis—1 February 2012—Documents outlining the crime that landed Malcolm X in prison in the 1940s are among some 1,000 recently unearthed items purchased jointly by the civil rights leader's foundation and an independent collector of African-American artifacts. The documents and other artifacts belonged to late musician Malcolm "Shorty" Jarvis, who served in prison with Malcolm X and was one of his closest friends. Jarvis' 1976 pardon paper also is part of the collection, which was recently discovered by accident. The items had been in a Connecticut storage unit that had gone into default, and were initially auctioned off to a buyer who had no idea what he was bidding on. The Omaha, Nebraska-based Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, which oversees the Malcolm X Center located at his birthplace, will house and display the just-arrived archives. It split the cost with Black History 101 Mobile Museum, based in Detroit—the birthplace of the Nation of Islam.—Mobile Museum founder and curator Khalid el-Hakim declined to identify the original buyer or the price the two organizations paid for the trove. Still, even after splitting the cost, he said it's the largest acquisition to date for his mobile museum, which includes Jim Crow-era artifacts, a Ku Klux Klan hood and signed documents by Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. . . . The collection also reveals an enduring connection between the two Malcolms after their incarceration, Malcolm X's conversion to Islam and his rise to prominence. There's a 72-page scrapbook of Malcolm X's life that was maintained by Jarvis until after his friend's 1965 assassination. One of the civil rights era's most controversial and compelling figures, Malcolm X rose to fame as the chief spokesman of the Nation of Islam, a movement started in Detroit more than 80 years ago. He proclaimed the black Muslim organization's message at the time: racial separatism as a road to self-actualization and urged blacks to claim civil rights "by any means necessary" and referred to whites as "devils."—TheGrio

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#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson


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Malcolm X

A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable

Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties.

Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

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Behind the Dream

The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation

By Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly

 “I Have a Dream.” When those words were spoken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, the crowd stood, electrified, as Martin Luther King, Jr. brought the plight of African Americans to the public consciousness and firmly established himself as one of the greatest orators of all time. Behind the Dream is a thrilling, behind-the-scenes account of the weeks leading up to the great event, as told by Clarence Jones, co-writer of the speech and close confidant to King. Jones was there, on the road, collaborating with the great minds of the time, and hammering out the ideas and the speech that would shape the civil rights movement and inspire Americans for years to come.— Palgrave Macmillan

Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation is a smart, insightful, enjoyable read about a momentous event in history. It is the "story behind the story" straight from Clarence Jones, the attorney, speechwriter, and close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. As I read the words on the page, I felt as if I were having an intimate conversation with the author. The book helped me to understand the humanity of Dr. King and the other organizers of the March on Washington. They were people who saw injustice and called for change. Despite FBI wiretaps and other adversity, together they undertook an enormous logistical effort in hopes that the March would be a success. Jones himself handwrote the first draft of the renowned “I Have a Dream” speech on a yellow legal pad, but it wasn't until King was inspired to veer from the text that he struck a chord with the audience, delivering the right words at the right time. The “I Have a Dream” speech helped to elevate King from a man to a hero; this book is a reminder to all to make sure that his Dream lives on.—amazon customer

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 3 April 2006




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