Archive for the ‘1963’ Category


“Message to the Grassroots” is one of the best speeches made by Malcolm X. He gave it in Detroit on November 10th 1963. It was his answer to Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech given just a few months before. Malcolm X says that you cannot have a revolution without violence, that what blacks in America need to fight for is not the right to sit next to a white man at a lunch counter but the right to a country of their own. It is a call for black nationalism, for black revolution.

It is also the speech where he laid out the difference between house Negroes and field Negroes, calling Martin Luther King a house Negro – one who sells out  to whites.

King was leading a Negro revolution, a revolution of turn the other cheek and singing “We Shall Overcome” – which is no revolution at all. If you look at the successful revolutions in history – the French, American, Russian and Chinese revolutions – what do you see? You see violence, you see men fighting for land.

Why is violence wrong in Mississippi and Alabama, when your churches are being bombed and your little girls are being murdered? If it is right for America to teach us how to be violent in defence of her against Hitler, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.

We are all black people, second-class citizens, ex-slaves. You are nothing but an ex-slave. You did not come here on the Mayflower. You came here on a slave ship – in chains. As a black person you are not wanted in America.

We have a common enemy. Once we all see that we can come together as one. And what we have foremost in common is that enemy, the white man.

He is the enemy of anyone anywhere in the world who is not white. In Kenya, Algeria and China. At the Bandung conference they found that by not inviting the white man they could get along.

The march on Washington came from the grassroots. It scared the white man to death. President Kennedy called in the Negro leaders:

“Call it off.” Kennedy said, “Look, you all letting this thing go too far.”

And Old Tom said, “Boss, I can’t stop it, because I didn’t start it. I’m not even in it, much less at the head of it.”

And that old shrewd fox, he said, “Well If you all aren’t in it, I’ll put you in it. I’ll put you at the head of it. I’ll endorse it. I’ll welcome it. I’ll help it. I’ll join it.”

It was a sell-out. It was a takeover. When James Baldwin came in from Paris, they would not let him talk, because they could not make him go by the script. They controlled it so tight. It was a circus, a performance that beat anything Hollywood could ever do.

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house Negro

amy-holmes-7158703From Malcolm X’s speech, “Message to the Grassroots” (1963):

There was two kinds of slaves. There was the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negroes – they lived in the house with master, they dressed pretty good, they ate good ’cause they ate his food – what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near the master; and they loved their master more than the master loved himself. They would give their life to save the master’s house quicker than the master would. The house Negro, if the master said, “We got a good house here,” the house Negro would say, “Yeah, we got a good house here.” Whenever the master said “we,” he said “we.” That’s how you can tell a house Negro.

If the master’s house caught on fire, the house Negro would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. If the master got sick, the house Negro would say, “What’s the matter, boss, we sick?” We sick! He identified himself with his master more than his master identified with himself. And if you came to the house Negro and said, “Let’s run away, let’s escape, let’s separate,” the house Negro would look at you and say, “Man, you crazy. What you mean, separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?” That was that house Negro. In those days he was called a “house nigger.” And that’s what we call him today, because we’ve still got some house niggers running around here.

This modern house Negro loves his master. He wants to live near him. He’ll pay three times as much as the house is worth just to live near his master, and then brag about “I’m the only Negro out here.” “I’m the only one on my job.” “I’m the only one in this school.” You’re nothing but a house Negro. And if someone comes to you right now and says, “Let’s separate,” you say the same thing that the house Negro said on the plantation. “What you mean, separate? From America? This good white man? Where you going to get a better job than you get here?”…

Just as the slavemaster of that day used Tom, the house Negro, to keep the field Negroes in check, the same old slavemaster today has Negroes who are nothing but modern Uncle Toms, 20th century Uncle Toms, to keep you and me in check, keep us under control, keep us passive and peaceful and nonviolent. That’s Tom making you nonviolent. It’s like when you go to the dentist, and the man’s going to take your tooth. You’re going to fight him when he starts pulling. So he squirts some stuff in your jaw called novocaine, to make you think they’re not doing anything to you. … Blood running all down your jaw, and you don’t know what’s happening. ‘Cause someone has taught you to suffer – peacefully.

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In honour of Martin Luther King Day here is part of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood….

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character….

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day – this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

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