FBI Agent: Morning, how do you do. We are with the FBI. You have a couple minutes? We’d like to talk to you.
Malcolm X: Come on in.
FBI Agent: I am sorry, did we get you up?
Malcolm X: I was on the telephone. Your name is?
FBI Agent: Beckwith.
Malcolm X: And your name is.?
FBI Agent: Fulton.
Malcolm X: Which office are you from?
FBI Agent: From New York. There’s only one out here. We have two problems we would like to talk to you about. One…why don’t you take the article and read it. You might have been called by a couple of reporters, is that right?
Malcolm X: Yes.
FBI Agent: What did they quote you saying, nonsense?
Malcolm X: I cussed them out. What paper is this from?
FBI Agent: One of the New York ones, I don’t know, I think the Times, I am not sure. The problem in this connection is that we have every reason to believe that this fella lied to us when he gave us the original.
Malcolm X: You should.
FBI Agent: Now, of course, that is a violation of the federal law, so he is in jail awaiting trial. Now the U.S. attorney up there preparing the case wanted you interviewed to disprove part of his story which isn’t here; that he attended a meeting, I believe Monday or Tuesday, the fourteenth, in Rochester, from about seven or eight until ten or ten-fifteen at night, at which you were there. Of course, you were very well known, naturally, and how he got your name, I don’t know. It is part of our proof, see, showing that you in fact were not there. And, if that is the case, that was on Tuesday night, wasn’t it?
Malcolm X: Yes, on January 14. Ordinarily, I could have been anywhere, but it just so happens that on that night I was at the International Hotel, out here at the airport, Kennedy Airport, with a writer, Alex Haley, who writes for the Reader’s Digest. You can get his number from the Reader’s Digest, he lives in Rome, New York.
FBI Agent: Yes, I have heard his name. Doubleday is doing a book. He wrote us a letter.
Malcolm X: Right, he wrote a letter.
FBI Agent: In fact, copies are right here. When that letter came in, he said that Egypt was trying to interview him about something. Now, they had been down to where he formerly lived. We had no information on it other than the person who got the letter. So you were with him that night?
Malcolm X: Yes, I was with him, and strange as it may seem, I got a call the next day from a lawyer downtown. Someone had apparently gotten hit over here on Junction Boulevard and Northern Boulevard and my license number had been turned in and he was saying it was I.
FBI Agent: Do you know the lawyer’s name?
Malcolm X: Epstein or something.
FBI Agent: You didn’t get his address or anything?
Malcolm X: No, but as far as I can recall, his name was Epstein. So, luckily, I was able to tell them where I was and Haley was with me until two o’clock in the morning. I picked him up at the airport.
FBI Agent: That would encompass the entire time. What time did you leave there?
Malcolm X: Must have been around seven o’clock.
FBI Agent: You said you picked him up at the airport. Had he flown in from Rome?
Malcolm X: No, he flew in from Chicago. He was doing a story on Fuller for the Digest, for the Digest or Playboy.
FBI Agent: You would have no objection to us referring to our conversation if it is necessary to ask him to corroborate your story, would you?
Malcolm X: No. It was quite fortunate, frankly, that I was tied up with him that night, because I could have been anywhere.
FBI Agent: Well, of course, as you know, we are aware of most of your activities and that is true. That is one reason why we couldn’t, on our own eliminate the fact that you were in fact in or not in Rochester.
Malcolm X: I was here.
FBI Agent: Had you been in Rochester at any time around this day?
Malcolm X: I haven’t been in Rochester in probably six months.
FBI Agent: Do you know this fella, Booker, by any chance?
Malcolm X: No.
FBI Agent: Does that name mean anything to you?
Malcolm X: No.
FBI Agent: Philip Alpert?
Malcolm X: I know a lot of people that I wouldn’t know by name.
FBI Agent: Well, he used the name up there, Alpert Leyton, spelled L-E-Y-T-O-N, he originally used it.
Malcolm X: I don’t know it. What did he say, somebody had a meeting up there?
FBI Agent: Well, basically, his information, when he gave it at first, we couldn’t prove or disprove it, so that caused quite a commotion with us. Someone is going to assassinate the President. I mean, that is of some significance. He attended a meeting. Now this is his story, briefly. On Tuesday night from, I don’t know the times, eight to ten, something like that, he was at a meeting of the Muslims in Rochester. He couldn’t tell us the exact place, he was blindfolded and taken there, which, of course, is not the way you people, I know, usually do things. This is his story. Ten were present, including you, and the assassination was planned, not the details, but it was planned to the extent that the ten people would get down in two cars—five each—to Washington, leaving late that night or early thy next morning. Now beyond there, the story fizzles out as to how they were going to do it. They had no arms as far as he knew. But, they were definitely going down. Well, of course, when we got this over the phone, you know, my God, you know. So when we kept talking to him and he finally admitted, he said no, it was false. Of course, then we threw him in jail for fraud against the government. That is the kind of case—that is the statute under which we have authority to bring him before the commission. He couldn’t make bail, so, of course, he went to trial and the trial is coming up shortly. I don’t know when the trial will be. Now you’d be put in the position, if necessary—of course, this is between you and me—in other words, I don’t know that you would even be called, but you would be a government witness in this case. Of course you would be protected by a subpoena and of course any expenses.
Malcolm X: I shouldn’t see where I have to get involved in something like this. Let me tell you what it is. It is so ridiculous that what it does, actually what it does…
FBI Agent: I will tell you the first reply that I made was that it was made up probably for that purpose, to embarrass your organization.
Malcolm X: Certainly that is what it sounds like to me. It is so ridiculous, number one, that it sounds like to me that it was something that was invented even though it would be denied, it would still serve as a propaganda thing.
FBI Agent: I agree; My first reaction was that it is possible that some people are going to do that, but not the Muslims.
Malcolm X: No.
FBI Agent: Of course, that doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility of trying to do something about it. This information of yours, seems as how it is a “fraud against the Government” case, the way we record the information is at your discretion. We, of course, will make a memorandum of our conversation on this point, unless you would prefer to have it written out and you sign it.
Malcolm X: No, I won’t sign anything.
FBI Agent: It is entirely up to you. I will phrase it you prefer not to give any signed statement in this matter. You have no objection to us recording that?
Malcolm X: I don’t see why I should have to get in it.
FBI Agent: You don’t, but I have to ask you a few questions. May I take a moment here to get a detail straightened out? Now, as particular to that night of the fourteenth, you said you picked Mr. Haley up?
Malcolm X: Yes.
FBI Agent: Was that the International Airport you picked him up at?
Malcolm X: Yes.
FBI Agent: He came into that airport?
Malcolm X: Yes. And then. ..
FBI Agent: And then you went to the International Hotel?
Malcolm X: Checked in under Alex Haley, under his name. I wasn’t checked in there. He had to work. It was about 7 P.M.
FBI Agent: About 7 P.M.?
Malcolm X: Yes, about 7 P.M.
FBI Agent: You remained with him until.
Malcolm X: About two o’clock in the morning. A waiter came in twice. One time around eight and another time around one o’clock.
FBI Agent: You didn’t know his name.
Malcolm X: No. It would be easy to check.
FBI Agent: You remained there until two and then you came home?
Malcolm X: Right, I came home.
FBI Agent: After meeting with Mr. Haley you spent the rest of the night there?
Malcolm X: I haven’t been in touch with him since I left. I don’t know what time he left the next day.
FBI Agent: He was scheduled to leave the next day by plane, I presume?
Malcolm X: Most likely.
FBI Agent: You can see one of the big problems we have on a thing like this. It is trying to prove a negative, so to speak.
Malcolm X: But you know, you have people in Washington who are past masters for making positive out of negative.
FBI Agent: No comment. In all probability, this is the type of party who is going to go up and say “I plead guilty.” But if he doesn’t and goes to trial then it is up to us to show that his story was false because that is the charge. He furnished us false information. And, that in fact he knew it was false—which he has already admitted to us.
Malcolm X: What would be his purpose in making a statement like this?
FBI Agent: I will tell you his reason between us, now I don’t know what it is, the reason is that he wanted to test the ability of the government agency. He was worried since President Kennedy’s assassination that we may not be on the ball. I don’t know.
Malcolm X: Well, was he a Negro?
FBI Agent: Yes, from Baltimore. He gave us a rather ridiculous story. He wanted to test the capabilities of making any preparations. Now, that is what he said. Of course, we right from the start were pretty much aware that he was wrong, he made up a story. He said he joined the Muslims, and the blindfold bit.
Malcolm X: Has he ever been a Muslim?
FBI Agent: We don’t know for sure. As far as we know, no. He claims that he joined in Baltimore. He said he joined and then became a junior dragon.
Malcolm X: What is that supposed to be?
FBI Agent: We don’t know. Of course, we know better and you know better, and then afterward, after serving his time as a junior dragon, he then became a dragon. He involved you in several different ways in addition to being there on that night. See, he probably knows your name. I would like to bring this out to you. He said in the summer of ‘63, he was designated by the Baltimore temple as a research specialist to make a study of Negro problems; home, house, family, so forth, in
Baltimore, and as a research specialist in Baltimore it had to have your approval since you were in charge of the entire East Coast of the Nation of Islam at that time. He said you approved his position as a research specialist in Baltimore.
Malcolm X: I have no knowledge of it, although we do need some research.
FBI Agent: Then he said that last summer, with your approval, he was designated the research specialist for the State of New York. That is when he went to Rochester and was doing research of this type in that area. He turned his reports over to Elmer X—he claimed—and then he passed them on to you.
Malcolm X: Elmer X who?
FBI Agent: He said it was Elmer X up there, and the only Elmer X we were acquainted with was Mr. Grant in Buffalo. As you may well be aware of, he was interviewed as a result of some investigation in that area. All members were contacted. He turned his reports over to Elmer X and that was the last he saw of them. Those are the other two positions where he involved you, being named a research specialist for the State of New York with your approval.
Malcolm X: Has he backed up on that score?
FBI Agent: Yes.
Malcolm X: He is a nut.
FBI Agent: Well, not being a psychiatrist …
Malcolm X: You wouldn’t have to be a psychiatrist. You wouldn’t have to be a policeman to know that someone is breaking the law. Common sense. If you have a knowledge of the law, you know once you are breaking it. And this man is even violating laws of intelligence.
FBI Agent: I think that clears up that. The other problem is probably what you assume we came up for—to obtain any information you want to give us about the Muslims.
Malcolm X: I don’t assume anything.
FBI Agent: That is a very general statement on my part. But, as you know, we follow the activities of the Muslims as best we can but we are always looking for new avenues for information, but who better than the head of the Muslims. At least, up until a month ago or something like that. That substantially is the second reason. We used this, this other thing, it came at a very good time as an excuse to push us out here to talk to you. Several of the fellows talked to you several years ago, as I recall.
Malcolm X: I haven’t spoken to the FBI since 1956. It was about eight years ago.
FBI Agent: Yes, about that. How is your suspension status?
Malcolm X: No one knows but Mr. Muhammad, you’d have to ask him.
FBI Agent: You are still on suspension now? You are not working or teaching now?
Malcolm X: I am still under the suspension.
FBI Agent: That is a temporary thing as far as you know?
Malcolm X: He is the only one who can give out any information. I couldn’t say nothing behind what he would say.
FBI Agent: I think he said it was a temporary suspension. How soon you resume your duties, we would be—as you sure know—interested in having you help us out.
Malcolm X: Help you out doing what? We are always helping out the government. We have been cleaning up crime.
FBI Agent: Fine, fine, fine.
Malcolm X: We help it out more than it helps itself. We are at least able to reform the people who have been made criminals by this society; by the corruption of this society. And, anyway, to help it out other than that, I wouldn’t even know how to begin.
FBI Agent: What we are interested in, basically, are the people who belong. The names of the members.
Malcolm X: From what I understand, you have all of that.
FBI Agent: No comment. The teachings, plans, programs.
Malcolm X: No teaching is more public than ours and I don’t think you will find anybody more blunt in stating it publicly than we do. I don’t think you can go anywhere on this earth and find anybody who expresses their views on matters more candidly than we do.
FBI Agent: I can only agree with you. You are right. The main thing is there is a certain area of responsibility this is getting into our angle of it. What we really want are the names of all those who belong, who they are, identification.
Malcolm X: I don’t even know them.
FBI Agent: You keep no records?
Malcolm X: That is not my job. I am just a preacher.
FBI Agent: But somebody up there keeps the records.
Malcolm X: I don’t know who. I don’t have any knowledge of those kinds of things. With all the responsibilities that I have had, it is difficult for me to worry about names, plus you would insult my intelligence asking me for them. In fact, you would insult your own because it would mean that your own intelligence isn’t heavy enough to weigh me and know in advance what I am going to say when you ask that question.
FBI Agent: Well, without getting into an argument on semantics, you don’t know until you ask.
Malcolm X: There is no semantics. That again goes into psychology.
FBI Agent: We have had people that, not this group in particular, who have been just as vociferous against whatever we are investigating. The Communists make a good case of it. The Communists for twenty years, you know, they hate everything. We’ve been told to investigate. I am going to tell you something—you never know until you ask. That has happened so many times. Sometimes you are convinced, but sometimes…money brings out the information. I don’t intend to insult you here.
Malcolm X: According to the Secretary of the Treasury, this government’s money is in trouble. According to government economists, the dollar itself is in so much trouble a person would be a fool to sell his soul for one of these decreasing dollars.
FBI Agent: I couldn’t agree with you more. You would be a fool to sell your soul even if the dollar were increasing. This has nothing to do with selling your soul. If you’re gonna look at it that way, okay.
Malcolm X: Depends on how you look at it. I frankly believe that what Mr. Muhammad teaches is 100 per cent true. Secondly, I believe that everything he has said will come to pass. I believe it. I believe it more strongly today than I did ten years ago because I have seen too much evidence. But, today, all of your world events that are shaping up, total up to too much evidence toward what he said is coming to pass. World events today would make me stronger in my convictions than they would have made me ten years ago.
FBI Agent: But that is beside the point of what I am trying to get out of you. Fine if that all comes to pass. I have no control of it. All we want to know is the names of the people that are in the organization, and if it is so public and so forth, by your own logic there would seem to be no objection to your saying “I am a Muslim.”
Malcolm X: That part of the tree is the root; I mean, the root is always beneath the ground.
FBI Agent: You don’t have to explain that but I don’t know what you are talking about…Well, would it be fair to say then in answer to a question whether or not you would cooperate with the government in furnishing pertinent information as I have described?
Malcolm X: I say we have always cooperated with them. The Muslims are the most cooperative group in this country with the government in that the Muslims are doing work that the government itself is incapable of doing.
FBI Agent: I say certain information pertinent to our investigation.
Malcolm X: You would have to go to Mr. Muhammad for pertinent information. I don’t have access to pertinent information.
FBI Agent: Then it would be fair here again, to say a denial of your desire to furnish information, any information you might.
Malcolm X: I don’t know what you mean by that.
FBI Agent: Well, the names of the members.
Malcolm X: That is not my department.
FBI Agent: But still you know a lot of names.
Malcolm X: No, I know probably less names than anybody. People I see, I call them brother and sister. I know no names.
FBI Agent: You have no access?
Malcolm X: I don’t ever take on burdens that are not necessary and having names of people that are not necessary to me.
FBI Agent: No, but if you were so disposed to cooperate with us, would you…?
Malcolm X: What do you mean by cooperate?
FBI Agent: You giving us any names that you could get.
Malcolm X: I am not so disposed.
FBI Agent: No, that is my point.
Malcolm X: As I say, we as an organization.
FBI Agent: Well, that is what I am trying to get out of you, whether or not you.
Malcolm X: We as an organization, and I am always an organization, that is why I say we. We cooperate with the government in that we do what they can’t toward correcting the morals of people.
FBI Agent: Of course we are with the FBI, we don’t have any jurisdiction or social interest in the morals of anybody.
Malcolm X: What I mean collectively, the FBI is supposed to be concerned.
FBI Agent: No, not at all.
Malcolm X: Hoover wrote a book here, not long ago.
FBI Agent: He said the public should be…but we investigate many things. Crimes, anything of interest to the government and anything that is assigned to us by the executive President or the Attorney General…to get information, that is the limit. Now, a citizen, sure, very nice anytime you can keep someone from committing a crime. Very nice. But our interest here in coming to you is not as one citizen to another. I mean we are here as representatives of a government agency, asking specific things. I am not talking to you as a neighbor. I don’t know you and you don’t know me.
Malcolm X: There is no government agency that can ever expect to get any information out of me that is in any way detrimental to any religious group or black group for that matter in this country. No government agency.
FBI Agent: Fine.
Malcolm X: Because they should use that same energy to go and find who bombed that church down in Alabama and if these government agencies spent as much time and energy…
FBI Agent: You know what somebody in the south is saying today? If you people would go up north and investigate the Muslims with the same energy you are trying to find this bomb here…
Malcolm X: The Muslims don’t bomb churches.
FBI Agent: I know. I didn’t say that.
Malcolm X: But still, Muslims don’t bomb churches. But still, if we broke the law they would have us in jail tomorrow.
FBI Agent: Let us hope so. Let us hope so.
Malcolm X: If we were a lawbreaking group—no group is more thoroughly investigated than we. No group is more infiltrated with—I call them stool pigeons—than we. Now, if we were breaking the law, the government would know about it and they would have us locked up.
FBI Agent: I wish you were telling the truth. You are partially right. I wish you were entirely right. It would make my job so much easier.
Malcolm X: They need to find the bombers of the church.
FBI Agent: Of course, sure, we need to find a lot of things. We need to find that twenty shiploads of corn oil or soybean oil, but it takes time to do.
Malcolm X: No, it doesn’t take time if you really want to do it.
FBI Agent: You think anybody can find that out?
Malcolm X: They should find out who murdered those little girls down in Birmingham, Alabama. I believe some Negro could go down and find out.
FBI Agent: Well, let’s send them down there. We will be glad to pay them.
Malcolm X: They are waiting for the FBI. But, if they stop relying on the FBI, then they would do it themselves.
FBI Agent: I don’t want to take up too much of your time. What I am interested in is if you want to help us. And, I put it to you bluntly, and I feel that I got a candid, blunt answer.
Malcolm X: That’s the best way to put something like that to me, blunt.
FBI Agent: I don’t want to sneak around the bush and try to trap you into saying anything. There is no point to it, because I have in mind a long-range cooperation between you and me or somebody else.
Malcolm X: Well, see, my religion teaches me that you don’t have any long-range anything because time is running out.
FBI Agent: Well, that is fine. That is all right if you believe it.
Malcolm X: I say that with all due respect.
FBI Agent: I know almost everything you have said at the meetings over the years, I am very familiar with it.
Malcolm X: I think the mistake that white people make when they listen to what we say is they think we are just saying it. We believe it. At least I believe it.
FBI Agent: Some just go for kicks.
Malcolm X: You can put someone on me twenty-four hours a day and they will come back and tell you what I am there for.
FBI Agent: Frankly, one of the reasons we picked this particular time to contact you is because of the suspension.
Malcolm X: The suspension was brought about by my own doing.
FBI Agent: Exactly, but who knows what was in your mind when you did receive the suspension. In other words, bitterness could have entered into it. It would not be illogical for someone to have spent so many years doing something, then being suspended.
Malcolm X: No, it should make one stronger. It should make him realize that law applies to the law enforcer as well as those who are under the enforcement of the enforcer.
FBI Agent: You’ve taken an attitude toward the thing that’s almost unhuman really. You have taken the attitude that Mr. Muhammad wants everyone to take if he chastises them, which is fine. More power to you. But you can see it from our viewpoint, that there is at least a chance and this has happened with other members of the organization suspended for some reason or other that we talked to them.
Malcolm X: Well, I can’t get bitter when I know that what I was reprimanded for was something that I actually did. What kind of person would I be to get bitter?
FBI Agent: Well, that is what we came to find out.
Malcolm X: I know.
FBI Agent: I have no way of knowing unless I ask. Well, that’s all. I don’t have any other specific questions. Do you have anything you wish to say?
Malcolm X: No, only what I said. I am still concerned about that church down there in Birmingham.
FBI Agent: We are too. A lot of men are down there working on it.
Malcolm X: There must be a lot of them down there working on it.
FBI Agent: Offhand, a bombing is one of the hardest types of things to conduct an investigation on. The bomb is left at the church, you don’t know when the bomb was left, you don’t know when it was thrown. When the bomb goes off, the evidence is gone. With the Medgar Evers killing, it was a different situation. The rifle was found, you had some evidence, you have a bullet in the man, the bullet itself. We could take the bullet from Medgar Evers and put it in the rifle that was found on the scene.
Malcolm X: I bet if they bombed one of these cathedrals with some little white children in it you would have them the next day.
FBI Agent: They bombed about a year ago a bomb went off in St. Patrick’s.
Malcolm X: St. Patrick’s here in New York.
FBI Agent: As a matter of fact, not too far from Cardinal Spellman’s quarters. They never found it.
Malcolm X: Didn’t hurt anybody.
FBI Agent: Broke a window or two. A bomb is a bomb. It is immaterial to us whether a bomb breaks a window or knocks a house down. We have the same responsibility. The next time you may be standing or we may be standing there.
Malcolm X: I can understand that because now I see why so many of these underworld bombings take place and you never hear anything about it.
FBI Agent: A man out there recently in Chicago stepped on the starter of his car. A bomb is a very difficult thing to handle unless someone comes forward and gives us some information, like somebody who knew something about it, either one of the perpetrators or somebody who overheard them. I was mentioning there like on the Evers case. The bullet itself you could put in the rifle after it was found. Actually, we could put the Beckwith fingerprints on the rifle itself, we can trace the scope of that rifle, we have things to work with. Just like your wife walks down the street, somebody grabs her purse and runs. Now, by the time you call the policeman and the police get there, it is a very difficult thing to try to work with because there is nothing left in the way of evidence. Your best evidence is to find the purse wherever it is thrown. As you may know, that means somebody takes the valuables out and throws the bag over the fence and that is gone. Somebody breaks into your house, there is a great deal of evidence. You can trace fingerprints. If they spring the lock on your door you can take fingerprints from the door, footprints. After a bombing there is nothing there. The Church is down, you can’t even pick the bomb up and trace it.
Malcolm X: It would be dangerous for you to ever say that publicly because your bombings would increase.
FBI Agent: It has been said before, anybody who knows how to make a bomb knows that. Anybody who has been in the service and gone to their bombing school, of course, there it is used for a different thing. It is one of the reasons why gangland wars have a lot of bombings. Nobody gets killed with a machine gun anymore. You can trace a machine gun. Thirty years ago that was the thing. One thing, machine guns are under regular control now. You can’t sell a machine gun and not report it, any guns, machine guns in particular. Then, of course, you don’t have complete citizen cooperation. You get a lot of resistance. I’m just glad I don’t have to try to find them myself. I am always glad when someone else gets the case.
Malcolm X: When Negroes in the South realize the inability of the law down there to protect them, they are going to start doing something to protect themselves.
FBI Agent: It is perfectly possible.
Malcolm X: You believe it. They are going to start doing something to protect themselves, not because I say so, it is plain common sense.
FBI Agent: They are going to do something to protect themselves. Suppose they get some men from their own church group to start a vigilante…stand guard outside their church to make sure no one throws a bomb. That is one thing, but are they going to go down…because their church was bombed and bomb some other church? That is a different thing. I cannot blame any Negro church, Baptist church in Montgomery or anywhere else, if they have some of their men stand guard at the church to make sure that no one plants a bomb. It is a chance that they have to do it.
Malcolm X: You would do that with your own family and home.
FBI Agent: If somebody was blowing up homes and you read that yours was next, you would stand guard and have some of the brothers here stand guard, but if you would go out because your house was blown up and blow the man’s house across the street up.
Malcolm X: When one society realizes that what happens to another society will happen to it, then that society will take the measures necessary within itself to see that those criminal elements within it don’t go out there and do those things.
FBI Agent: Unfortunately, most people realize that. If it were not true, of course we would have an anarchy and continued violence. You might have a small portion luckily, by small I mean infinitesimal in numbers. Most of the people even in the South realize that. I don’t think you would have gone to Birmingham the Sunday of the bombing and found any white people who were jumping for joy because those four Negro children were killed. Undoubtedly, there would have been some of the perpetrators themselves. Maybe some people who are fanatically inclined with the white citizens and the KKK. But the general run of persons—even those same persons who do not want a Negro to sit beside them on the bus, don’t want a Negro to sit beside them at a lunch counter, or don’t want a Negro to live in the same neighborhood with them—I don’t think even though they felt that way, I don’t think you would find many who would jump for joy because those four young girls died in a bombing or that any church itself sustained bombing.
Malcolm X: Perhaps you are right, but I think that when white society realizes that the same thing can happen to it that happens to other societies because of it, then white society will take measures to see that these other things don’t happen.
FBI Agent: Nobody denies there are injustices in the South and in the North.
Malcolm X: That is my contention. I grew up in white society. I think that they underestimated the feelings of Negroes because Negroes have always shown this long-suffering-type attitude.
FBI Agent: Until recently, I don’t think they so much underestimated as ignored their feelings. I don’t think many white people thirty years ago even thought about Negroes. They say, what do you think about Negroes. I don’t know, I never thought about it.
Malcolm X: The reason they never thought about them is because they underestimated them. In their subconscious minds, they don’t even give the Negro credit for being independent enough to have feelings about certain things.
FBI Agent: I think that is changing.
Malcolm X: But it is not changing fast enough.
FBI Agent: Of course, that is a matter of degree, people will always disagree on that.
Malcolm X: I am not saying the condition is not changing fast enough, the awareness on the part of whites isn’t changing fast enough.
FBI Agent: That is probably the root of the problem. Legislation, laws, etc. make you like white people, make white people like Negroes. There is nothing, really, except education.
Malcolm X: But they are not trying to educate, they are trying to legislate.
FBI Agent: Exactly.
Malcolm X: They are not even going about it in sincerity. The only reason they are trying to legislate is for political reasons. If they were really aware of the degree of dissatisfaction among Negroes and the ability of Negroes sooner or later to do something about it themselves, then you wouldn’t see the politicians playing around, you would see them making a sincere enough effort to educate, hut the only man that you will find doing something along educational lines is Mr. Muhammad. He changes the attitude of the Negro and the average person who has become a Muslim. Although he may appear dogmatic in some of his views on race, you won’t find him going out and getting in trouble with whites. The only time there is any trouble is when somebody initiates some kind of trouble with him. The reason I say this is because in my experience, Negroes who become Muslims are more capable of dealing with white society on their intelligence plane, I even might say on a reciprocal plane, than the Negro who hasn’t been exposed to Mr. Muhammad’s teaching, because the Negro who has been exposed to Mr. Muhammad’s teaching faces facts and the facts are this is a white man and this is a black man. This is a fact, there is nothing derogatory, and when you have to deny that you are a white man, you are in trouble. When you have to deal with a man on the basis of a complete denial of what you are and pretend you are denying what he is, you can’t even talk on that basis, and this is the impasse that the Negro civil rights movements are jockeying for in this white society. They had a boycott yesterday. What did they accomplish? Let me give you an example: I blame the white man for making these Negroes think they are really leaders and they think they have some kind of program. No, they are jockeying him into such a position that you will be so embarrassed in the sight of the world, and after it is all over, you still haven’t solved the problem.
FBI Agent: No, you don’t solve things that way, whether by demonstrations or by laws.
Malcolm X: You notice that we don’t demonstrate.
FBI Agent: My mention of education was on the part of the white people.
Malcolm X: Susskind had a good program last night on Channel 2, about this same thing. But it showed in there that you had some Negroes who moved into a white neighborhood and the repercussions, mental reaction. Many whites tried to band together and act intelligent and they found that they couldn’t do it. It isn’t prejudice, it is their intelligence that won’t enable them to do it. They are not going to let someone live and move into their neighborhood who doesn’t know how to keep the neighborhood up.
FBI Agent: I think that is the big problem rather than the color.
Malcolm X: What programs do you know of going on in the Negro communities now that are showing the Negroes the importance of property and property values? This is not speaking against our people, but you can’t come out of slavery overnight and know what to do with your property. There is no program going on among Negroes today that will show Negroes how to act in a higher society or how to act when given access toward the higher things in a higher society, and now no white person can say it without being called a bigot. This is what I mean. The so-called Negro civil rights leader has the white man in a position where he can’t even show his intelligence without being called a bigot. But in dealing with a Muslim you can at least say what you think, you wouldn’t be called a bigot. If what you say is intelligent, good. If what you say is not intelligent, then it’s not. Then until the two can sit down and approach the problem you will have a problem of getting worse rather than getting better. It is going to be worse in I964 than in 1963, as long as you got these freaks like Rustin who is nothing but a homo who can be projected by the press as a leader of black people, then you are going to have trouble on your hands.
FBI Agent: That is true, and I wish you were right.
Malcolm X: I know I’m right. All they are going to do is come up with what they call programs to give vent to the frustrations of the Negro and you can’t do that but soften. Sooner or later, that Negro is going to be looking for the real thing and then you won’t be able to control him and nothing you say will save him, or please him, or even stop him.
FBI Agent: I agree with you. Not to prolong our talk here, but me ask you this. On occasion, things come up like this of you being in Rochester.
Malcolm X: That is once in a lifetime.
FBI Agent: But frequently we get problems. The United Nations about three years ago, you people were accused of going in the line, but I know you weren’t because I was down there. But, we get inquiries not only from Washington to determine to what extent, if any, the Muslims were active in the picketing of the United Nations. It is important for some people to identify the groups that participate most. Do you have any objection if we contact you on things like that and ask you point- blank are the Muslims involved in this.
Malcolm X: No objection. My telephone number is OL 1- 6320.
FBI Agent: How about that. OL 1-6320.
Malcolm X: That’s like telling you the sun shines from the east.
FBI Agent: I assume we have it, but I will take it down in case we don’t. As you know, we haven’t called you, so I’m not sure. I will limit this. This will not be once a week or once a month, maybe once a year will be the extent of it. But it will save time and trouble at least.
Malcolm X: We don’t picket. If we do picket they know it is us. It is that much difference between us and the others.
FBI Agent: As I say, we were down there. Here again, we are trying to prove a negative. It is not easy. A man sitting in Washington at a desk, when he calls down he…
Malcolm X: I think Washington is a past master, as I said previously, it’s making positives out of negatives and negatives out of positives.
FBI Agent: I will report on my contact with you, for two reasons: one, not to bother you, and two, we clearly indicated that you just wouldn’t give us any information.
Malcolm X: Certainly. You can tell them they insult my intelligence, not only, they insult me, period, if they think I will tell them anything.
FBI Agent: You have the privilege. That is very good. You are not alone. We talk to people every day who hate the government or hate the FBI. That is why they pay money, you know.
Malcolm X: That is not hate, it is incorrect to clarify that as hate. It doesn’t take hate to make a man firm in his convictions. There are many areas to which you wouldn’t give information and it wouldn’t be because of hate. It would be your intelligence and ideals.
FBI Agent: I don’t know of any, but that is all right.
Malcolm X: It has nothing to do with hate, it is based on my own factual…
FBI Agent: Disinclination to cooperate with the government.
Malcolm X: I don’t see where it is disinclination. I don’t even think it could be worded like that. I am looking for the government to cooperate with some of these Negroes. I don’t see any government cooperation in Birmingham or any of these other places.
FBI Agent: Well, you’ll have to see your congressman about that. We don’t work in that area. It would be good and I think in many ways might be of some benefit to your organization if we can eliminate people now on the other hand, it might possibly get a rumor that you are going to—I don’t want to use the wrong word—you say you don’t picket, you say you had a little march in Times Square last…whatever you call it, if we get a rumor on that would you have any objection if I called you?
Malcolm X: No, not at all. I do think you are going to have a lot, in 1964, period, of racial disturbances.
FBI Agent: Of course, I am limiting our relationship to the Muslims, which is the only group you would be able to give an authoritative answer on. The other groups, we will have to get people in the other groups to furnish information.
FBI Agent: (speaking to other agent) Do you have any other questions?
FBI Agent: How was your trip to Florida?
Malcolm X: Fine.
FBI Agent: How do you think Cassius is going to come out? Is he going to win or is he going to lose?
Malcolm X: He can win.
FBI Agent: I’ve seen him fight and I think he is a pretty good fighter, but I think he is going to get it knocked off here, come February.
Malcolm X: He lives a clean life, all those things count.
FBI Agent: Liston does too.
Malcolm X: He might. I don’t know as much about him.
FBI Agent: I don’t know either. He’s sort of a monster to run into.
Malcolm X: Even a monster, Father Time catches up with them.
FBI Agent: Right. It got to be that anybody could beat Joe Louis, but if they had fought him six or seven years earlier, they wouldn’t have had a chance. You going down to the fight?
Malcolm X: I don’t know.
FBI Agent: I was just wondering.
Malcolm X: Florida is an easy place to go to.
FBI Agent: Yes, nobody would have to twist your arm to get you to go. Thank you very much for your time.
Malcolm X: You are welcome.
FBI Agent: (speaking to other agent) You got your folder?
FBI Agent: We can leave that.
Malcolm X: Oh, that’s all right, it would be safe here.
FBI Agent: All right, thank you very much. Thank you again.
Malcolm X: You are welcome.