In March, 1964, five Black
Muslim men were arrested
in Atlanta for
allegedly inciting an altercation with three African Americans--Milton
D. Carter, Lorenzo Fitzpatrick, and Hardwick Stanley--who
refused to purchase a Muslim newspaper. This was noteworthy
because Black Muslims consistently advocate nonviolent
resistance unless provoked. Grady X (Rogers), Marshall
X (Bing), Clifford X (Barksdale), Will X (Norris), and Carlton X
(Woods) were arrested and charged with assault with
intent to murder. The police officers who booked the five men claimed
the men attacked them with tools impounded from
another case. Officers called in reinforcements to end the fight.
The five were commanded to put up five thousand dollars in bonds,
but the court soon raised this amount to ten thousand dollars, which
their lawyers disputed.
The first hearing, scheduled March 6, was
postponed through the efforts of defense lawyers
Howard Moore of Atlanta and C.B.
King of Albany, who
argued that the extremely high bond warranted further time
for investigation. By Wednesday, March 8, they were still
under arrest. Edward Jacko, Muslim general counsel of New
and James Sharpe of Louisiana soon
joined the defense team. After a week of jail time, Will X (Norris)
was the first to stand trial; the other men’s hearings were waived
by the defense.
This story reveals how the post-1960s phase of the Civil
Rights Movement made more visible nationalist groups
such as the Black Muslims who advocated separate economic, educational,
and political strategies and institutions for African Americans.
In the South, the Deacons
for Defense and Justice, a group of African
American Christians who supported the nonviolent efforts of protestors,
also expressed their commitment to taking up arms to defend themselves
and their communities. Some
African Americans saw such groups as threatening, or as potentially
able to undermine the progress that more moderate organizations
such as the SCLC and
the NAACP had
X, who published
his autobiography with Alex
Haley in 1964, became one of the most
well-known members of the Black Muslims. He is an iconic figure
to young black Americans because of his outspokenness, his transformation
from a street hustler to religious leader, and his willingness to
confront white Americans with the anger and hatred that many African
Americans felt. He
was assassinated in the Audobon
Ballroom in Harlem on
February 21, 1965.
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1. Malcolm X began his political career
in opposition to the black activists' goal
of a unified human rights struggle with white Americans. To
what extent did he change his mind about this position later in
life, and why?
2. Many Black Muslims changed their
names--for example, from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X--in order
to shrug off the history of slavery and second-class status. Native
American youth who attended boarding schools during the early twentieth-century
were routinely required by their teachers to abandon use of their
given names, and substitute Christian names instead. For example,
the Sioux child Ohiyesa ("The
Winner") was renamed Charles when
he attended a missionary-run school in South Dakota. Discuss
the significance of names and the reason why renaming can be a process
of either erasure or pride.
3. The Alabama-born African American poet Sonia
Sanchez joined the Nation of Islam as a young writer. (Read
or listen to her recitation of a poem for Malcolm X that she wrote
upon his assassination). Yet she became disillusioned
with the roles and treatment of women in the Nation. Choose a major
world religion or spirituality (Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism,
Christianity--Catholic or Protestant) and, working in teams, research
and discuss the involvement of women in these faiths today.
Take it to
the distinction between the Nation
of Islam and Islam.
Collect a week's worth of newspaper clippings on Islam or the Nation
of Islam. Or watch the nightly news for a week to construct a pattern
in how the newscasts represent either one of these religions. Write
a paper of 3-5 pages analyzing the portrayal of the group you chose.
What particular aspects does the newspaper or newscast include to
positively or negatively influence public opinion? Specifically
examine how and why violence is a frequent theme
in the representations of these two religions.
Kamille Bostick, Christina L. Davis, Mary Boyce Hicks, and Professor
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