Milton Henry interviews Malcolm X (April 12, 1964)

Milton Henry interviews Malcolm X (April 12, 1964)

Milton Henry: Once again the GOAL Show microphones have with us our brother, Malcolm X. This time we are on the other side of the world. We’re at Cairo, Egypt, where the independent African states have met in serious confrontation for the last week. One of the significant additions to the confrontation here was the presence of Malcolm X as a black American delegate to the conference of black peoples here in Africa. Malcolm, would you tell us something about the conference? First of all, we’d like to know about your appearance how did it happen that you as an American were permitted to appear at this conference of African people?

Malcolm X: First, I want to point out that we are sitting here along the banks of the Nile, and the last time I spoke to you we were in Harlem. Here along the banks of the Nile it’s not much different from Harlem same people, same feeling, same pulse.

About my appearing here at the conference: At first it did create a great deal of controversy, and, as you probably know, apprehension on the part of the powers that be in America, because they realize that if any direct contact, communication and understanding and working agreement are ever developed between the 22 million or 30 million Afro-Americans and the Africans here on the continent, there’s nothing we couldn’t accomplish. When I arrived here, there was a great deal of publicity in all of the press over here concerning my coming. It was historic in a sense because no American Negroes had ever made any effort in the past to try and get their problems placed in the same category as the African problems, nor had they tried to internationalize it. So this was something new, it was unique, and everyone wondered what the reaction of the Africans would be.

It is true that at first there were stumbling blocks placed in my path in regards to being accepted into the conference, or into the meetings. But I’d rather not say what happened in specific details. Thanks to Allah, I was admitted as an observer and I was able to submit a memorandum to each one of the heads of state, which was read and thoroughly analyzed by them. It pointed out the conditions of our people in America and the necessity of something being done and said at this conference toward letting the world know, at least letting the United States know, that our African brothers over here identified themselves with our problems in the States.
Milton Henry: Now, Malcolm, I have read the speech which was presented. Basically, as you say, it did deal with the abuses that the American Negroes have suffered in America and it asked the consideration of the African states of this problem. Now, will you tell us, was this actually passed upon, and did any action come out of the Cairo conference with reference to the American Negro?

Malcolm X: Yes, a resolution came out, acknowledging the fact that America has passed a civil-rights bill, but at the same time pointing out that, despite the passage of the civil-rights bill, continued abuses of the human rights of the black people in America still existed. And it called upon I forget the wording; when I read the resolution it was 2:30 in the morning, under very adverse conditions; but I was so happy to read it. In essence, I remember that it outright condemned the racism that existed in America and the continued abuses that our people suffered despite the passage of the civil-rights bill. It was a very good resolution.

Milton Henry: In other words, this type of resolution coming out of a conference of thirty-four African states should certainly make the United States take a new look at the American Negro?

Malcolm X: Well, I have to say this, that the United States has been looking at the American Negro. When I arrived here I did a great deal of lobbying. I had to do a great deal of lobbying between the lobby of the Hotel Hilton, the lobby of the Shepherd and even the lobby of the ” Isis,” the ship where the African liberation movement was housed. Lobbying was necessary because the various agencies that the United States has abroad had success fully convinced most Africans that the American Negro in no way identified with Africa, and that the African would be foolish to involve himself in the problems of the American Negroes. And some African leaders were saying this.

So in the memorandum I submitted to them at the conference I pointed out to them that as independent heads of states we looked upon them as the shepherds not only of the African people on the continent, but all people of African descent abroad; and that a good shepherd is more concerned with the sheep that have gone astray and fallen into the hands of the imperialist wolf than the sheep that are still at home. That the 22 million or 30 million, whatever the case may be, Afro-Americans in the United States were still Africans, and that we felt that the African heads of state were as much responsible for us as they were responsible for the people right here on the continent. This was a sort of a challenge to them and I think that most of them realize it today, more so than they did prior to the conference.

Milton Henry: Malcolm, I think you are to be greatly applauded because actually you were the only American recognized as a participant of the conference, and of course you had the badge which permitted you access to all of the rooms and so forth. The Americans here, including myself, did not have that privilege, but you had the privilege of actually being with the other black brothers. I had the feeling that there will be a great change in emphasis because you have been here, and because you presented our position the position of the black man in America so well, in a way that no one but an American could.

Malcolm X: One thing that made most Africans see the necessity of their intervening on our behalf was  the historic steps since 1939 in the so-called rise of the black American. It was the world pressure, brought about by Hitler, that enabled the Negro to rise above where he was. After Hitler was destroyed, there was the threat of Stalin, but it was always the world pressure that was upon America that enabled black people to go forward. It was not the initiative internally that the Negro put forth in America, nor was it a change of moral heart on the part of Uncle Sam it was world pressure.

Once this is realized as a basic fact, then the present American Negro leaders will be more aware that any gain, even in token form, that they get, isn’t coming from any goodness out of Washington, D.C., or from their own initiative it is coming because of the international situation. And when they see it like this, in cold facts, then they will see the necessity of placing their problem at the world level, internationalizing the Negro struggle and calling upon our brothers and sisters in Africa and Asia and Latin America, and even in some of the European countries, to bring pressure upon the United States government in order to get our problems solved. And this was only the first of a series of steps that the OAAU has in mind to internationalize the black man’s problem, and make it not a Negro problem or an American problem, but a world problem, a problem for humanity.

Milton Henry: I think of another real benefit from this conference, Malcolm. You are living in a very advantageous spot, because it so happens, as you intimated just a minute ago, that you are living with all of the freedom fighters from all of the liberated and unliberated parts of the world down there on the “Isis” is that the name of the boat?

Malcolm X: Well, I don’t know if I should say this, but it is true. The “Isis,” a beautiful yacht that floats on the Nile River, was set aside for all the liberation movements that exist on the African continent. The leaders of these movements from places like Angola, the Angola freedom fighters; freedom fighters from Mozambique; freedom fighters from Zambia, known as Northern Rhodesia, which is just on its way toward independence; freedom fighters from Zimbabwe, known in America as Southern Rhodesia; freedom fighters from Southwest Africa; from Swaziland; Basutoland; and South Africa itself all of the representatives of these different groups of freedom fighters were housed on this yacht called the “Isis.”

I was very honored to be permitted to be housed right along with them. Spending so much time with them gave me a real feeling of the pulse of a true revolutionary, and it gave me an opportunity also to listen to them tell of the real brutal atmosphere in which they live in these colonized areas. It also gave me somewhat of a better idea of our problem in America, and what is going to be necessary to bring an end to the brutality and the suffering that we undergo every day.

Milton Henry: I think that this is one of the advantages of a conference like the one we have just experienced. The fact is that it is important for people to get together to exchange ideas. Even apart from the speeches and the organizational activities which go on with the formal organization, it would seem that, as you indicated, the opportunity for the leaders of each of these parts of the world to get together becomes an invaluable asset to the total freedom struggle. Because without this, leaders very often feel they work by themselves; and with it, they can see the whole picture.

Malcolm X: Yes, this is one thing that I have learned since being out of the Black Muslim movement. It’s difficult to look at a thing through the narrow scope of an organizational eye ofttimes and see it in its proper perspective. If the various groups in America had been less selfish and had permitted different representatives from the groups to travel into foreign countries, and broaden their own scope, and come back and educate the movements they represented, not only would this have made the groups to which they belonged more enlightened and more worldly in the international sense, but it also would have given the independent African states abroad a better understanding of the groups in the United States, and what they stand for, what they represent.

In my opinion, a very narrow, backward, almost childish approach has been made by the groups in the United States, and especially the religious groups; very narrow minded. Whenever you belong to a group that just can’t work with another group, then that group itself is selfish. Any group, any group that can’t work with all other groups, if they are genuinely interested in solving the problems of the Negro collectively why, I don’t think that that group is really sincerely motivated toward reaching a solution. This Organization of African Unity, this summit conference, is the best example of what can be accomplished when people come together and their motives aren’t selfish.

Milton Henry: Yes, it doesn’t seem that it should be so difficult for Negroes, if they are sincere, to get together.

Malcolm X: If they are sincere, it is easy for them to get together.

Milton Henry: Perhaps those leaders will be passed by now, in the events as they move forward. I am enthused about the OAAU, and I expect that there will be some very concrete things happening with respect to that organization that will make the so-called civil-rights movement just a thing of the past almost.

Malcolm X: Well, one of the main objectives of the OAAU is to join the civil-rights struggle and lift it above civil rights to the level of human rights. As long as our people wage a struggle for freedom and label it civil rights, it means that we are under the domestic jurisdiction of Uncle Sam continually, and no outside nation can make any effort whatsoever to help us. As soon as we lift it above civil rights to the level of human rights, the problem becomes internationalized; all of those who belong to the United Nations automatically can take sides with us and help us in condemning, at least charging, Uncle Sam with violation of our human rights.

Milton Henry: Yes, Malcolm, there is one other thing before we leave. What do you think of this city of Cairo?

Malcolm X: Cairo is probably one of the best examples for the American Negro. More so than any other city on the African continent, the people of Cairo look like the American Negroes in the sense that we have all complexions, we range in America from the darkest black to the lightest light, and here in Cairo it is the same thing; throughout Egypt, it is the same thing. All of the complexions are blended together here in a truly harmonious society. You know, if ever there was a people who should know how to practice brotherhood, it is the American Negro and it is the people of Egypt. Negroes just can’t judge each other according to color, because we are all colors, all complexions. And as Mrs. W. E. B. DuBois pointed out, the problems today are too vast. Just as on the African continent, you have this wide range of complexions so much so that you can’t call it a brown struggle, a red struggle, or a black struggle.

Milton Henry: By the way, Brother Malcolm, before we close, did you receive any promises of assistance or help from any of the African nations?

Malcolm X: Oh, yes, several of them promised officially that, come the next session of the UN, any effort on our part to bring our problem before the UN… I think it is the Commission on Human Rights…will get support and help from them. They will assist us in showing us how to bring it up legally. So I am very, very happy over the whole result of my trip here.

Milton Henry: So this conference has been an unqualified success from all standpoints?

Malcolm X: From all standpoints it has been an unqualified success, and one which should change the whole direction of our struggle in America for human dignity as well as human rights.

Milton Henry: Thank you very much, Brother Malcolm.