Malcolm X | Critical Review by Julius Lester

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Malcolm X.
This section contains 692 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Julius Lester

SOURCE: A review of The End of White World Supremacy: Four Speeches by Malcolm X, in New York Times Book Review, May 16, 1971, pp. 4, 22.

In the following excerpt, Lester offers praise for The End of White World Supremacy, declaring that "these speeches are the best examples in print of why, even dead, [Malcolm X is a man to measure one's self against."]

All praises are now given to the name and memory of Malcolm X. In his person he represented the apotheosis of blackness; but, except for the last 11 months of his political career, he articulated the aims and ideals of the Nation of Islam as the number one spokesman for the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. This is important to remember because as the most important black political figure of the sixties, Malcolm X brought the thought of Elijah Muhammad to a larger audience and thereby increased its influence. That fact is not recognized or acknowledged today, but it is very evident in The End of White World Supremacy, a collection of four previously unpublished speeches given during 1962 and 1963, Malcolm's last year in the Nation. Here we find the concepts that, three years after his death, would be gathered under the rubric black power and forwarded as a secular philosophy: pride in blackness; the necessity to know black history; black separation; the need for black unity; black control of the political, economic and social institutions of the black community.

Malcolm X was more feared than loved by blacks while he lived, and these speeches are the best examples in print of why, even dead, he is a man to measure one's self against. One reads these four speeches from almost a decade ago and trembles. He speaks not as a political leader or social analyst (though he was both), but like one of the Old Testament prophets. He is the voice of doom from the maelstrom of American history. He does not exhort his followers or threaten his enemies. He lives in a place where such rhetorical weaknesses do not exist, for he represents Truth. He is one of the redeemed, and it is irrelevant to him if he is heeded or ignored. Being ostracized or vilified will not affect him in the least. Like Noah, he is building his ark, and if he is the only one who will be saved, then, all praises be!

It was this undoubting belief in the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, this vision of the wheat being separated from the chaff, that gave Malcolm his diamond-like integrity. He knew Armageddon was coming, and he was as sure that he was on the side of good as he was that the sun would rise each morning. I envy him his faith. For him, it was all so simple. Blacks were the chosen people, and their time had come. The white world would fall, and the black one would rise; he was one of the saved.

Unfortunately, it is not that simple, as Malcolm himself may have begun to team in the brief months left to him after quitting the Nation. Shorn of its religious framework and the cosmological dimension Malcolm was able to give it, the thought of Elijah Muhammad is black nationalism, with all the necessary and painful contradictions that have to exist when there is no physical nation in which the nationalism can root itself, when so much of the history of the people is forever lost in the lower depths of white-sailed slave ships.

But Malcolm made an existential leap, over the abyss and into the faith of blackness. Many have made the leap with him, but there are those of us who have hesitated, knowing that there is no such thing as Truth, except the abyss itself. Faith is comforting, but it is blind. And though having sight can sometimes make one long to be blind, ultimately, it is only by seeing that we fully live. Black history reached a necessary apex through Malcolm X. It must proceed beyond that point, however, if blacks are not to become, like everyone else, hapless puppets of history, the blindest force of all….

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This section contains 692 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Julius Lester
Literature Criticism Series
Critical Review by Julius Lester from Literature Criticism Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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