Malcolm X | Critical Review by Angela Blackwell

This literature criticism consists of approximately 4 pages of analysis & critique of Malcolm X.
This section contains 1,066 words
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Critical Review by Angela Blackwell

SOURCE: A review of By Any Means Necessary: Speeches, Interviews and a Letter by Malcolm X, in Black Scholar, Vol. 1, No. 7, May, 1970, pp. 56-7.

In the following review, Blackwell applauds By Any Means Necessary, maintaining that the volume offers insights into the spiritual and intellectual development of Malcolm X, and also illuminates aspects of "the man" himself.

George Breitman brings us a little more of Malcolm in the form of several previously unprinted speeches, interviews which appeared in periodicals, and a letter from Cairo. By Any Means Necessary is really a continuation of Malcolm X Speaks, also edited by George Breitman. It contains materials which were not available at the time of that printing. Everything which appears in this newest compilation was delivered by Malcolm after his break with the Black Muslims. Included with each selection are notes by the editor giving a brief background, the time and place of interviews or speeches, and references to points of interest. No interpretive attempts are made.

By Any Means Necessary is certainly an appropriate heading under which to present Malcolm's thoughts. His whole being was dedicated to the liberation of black people by any means necessary. No statement was too strong, no idea was too radical, no end was too far when it came to the cause which racism forced him to make his life. Malcolm was truly a servant to his people, and he attempted to perform that service by any means necessary.

The speeches and interviews presented in this book point to various stages of Malcolm's development. "Development" is a key word rather than "changes." Malcolm never changed his goals or his dedication to humanism, but his thinking followed a dialectical development which has had a profound effect on the struggle of the oppressed all over the world. Within the pages of this work we are examining not only Malcolm's development, but also the man. His warmth, his forcefulness, his wit, his ability to "bring it on down front" are brought to us once again.

It is doubtful whether there are any thoughts of Malcolm's included in By Any Means Necessary that have not, in some way, been presented elsewhere. This latest offering is not important because of its originality, but rather because it confronts us with Malcolm once more. Again we come face to face with Malcolm's challenges and his ideas. Again we are forced to feel the stab of knowing that his program and goals are not yet a reality. We are reminded of all Malcolm's aspirations and of our own failures.

The selections in this book show Malcolm before varied audiences. Several of his talks are presented to militant white groups, there are speeches before all black groups, radio interviews, and a telephone conversation. In all these circumstances, Malcolm was direct, sincere, and assured.

Malcolm's ability to express his views with pinpoint accuracy, even in impromptu situations, is demonstrated in an interview with A. B. Spellman. In one instance Spellman questioned Malcolm about his "goal of separation." Malcolm prefaced his response with an effective clarification of terms.

This word separation is misused. The thirteen colonies separated from England but they called it a Declaration of Independence; they don't call it a Declaration of Separation … When you're independent of someone you can separate from them. If you can't separate from them, it means you're not independent of them.

Malcolm was especially exciting when he spoke to black audiences. This is evidenced in four speeches which were recorded at OAAU. (Organization of Afro-American Unity) rallies. The simple, yet forceful and direct language that Malcolm used, coupled with the understanding and deep feeling which he felt for the audience, make these speeches an inspiration. At one of these rallies Malcolm was discussing the absurdity of civil rights legislation, and stated:

The Germans, that they used to fight just a few years ago, can come here and get what you can't get. The Russians, whom they're supposedly fighting right now, can come here and get what you can't get without legislation. The Polish don't need legislation. Nobody needs it but you. Why? You should stop and ask yourself why. And when you find out why, then you'll change the direction you've been going in, and you'll change also the methods that you've been using trying to get in that direction….

The effects of Malcolm's hajj to Mecca and his African tour are also revealed in these speeches by his deepened commitment to internationalize the struggle of the black man and his crystallization of the need for unity among blacks, regardless of their differences.

A letter written by Malcolm while he was in Cairo shows how aware Malcolm was of ensuing danger. He states:

You must realize that what I am trying to do is very dangerous, because it is a direct threat to the entire international system of racist exploitation.

In this same letter, Malcolm's great humility and dedication to the cause, rather than the building up of individual personalities, is evident. After a brief discussion of dissatisfactions and infighting taking place within OAAU, Malcolm said:

I know your grievances, much of which is just, but much of which is also based upon inability to look at the problem as a whole. It is bigger and more complicated than many of us realize. I've never sought to be anyone's leader. There are some of you there who want leadership. I've stayed away this summer and given all those who want to show what they can do the opportunity to do so. When I return I will work with anyone who thinks he can lead … and I only pray to Allah that you will work with me likewise.

It is refreshing and sobering to touch Malcolm's life again and to be reminded of his unparalleled rise to the forefront of the fight for black liberation. Thanks to George Breitman for compiling some additional works of the man who shaped the present struggle of the black man in America. Too many folks think that once they've read Malcolm, they've read Malcolm. To read Malcolm once is not enough; to read Malcolm twice is not enough. Malcolm should be read every morning and every evening until he is fully internalized; until his thinking is our thinking. A common phrase among black people is "it's like Malcolm says." We ought to keep reading Malcolm until Malcolm isn't saying it any more—until we're saying it.

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This section contains 1,066 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Angela Blackwell