Malcolm X and the political seed that sowed Barack Obama

Friday March 4 2016

A twenty dollar bill commemorating Barack

A twenty dollar bill commemorating Barack Obama's win in the U.S. presidential election is displayed next to a poster of Malcolm X in a store in South Los Angeles, November 12, 2008.For Malcom X, radical views attracted death. PHOTO/FILE 

By Mwaura Samora

February is the Black History Month in the United States and other western countries where African Americans celebrate their achievements and history.

Although there have been many players in the Negro’s journey of social and political emancipation over the centuries, that story would be incomplete without the story of fiery civil rights leader and activist Malcolm X.

Alongside the Nobel Laureate Martin Luther King Jr, the firebrand Malcolm X, according to his explosive book The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told to Alex Haley, was one of the fulcrums that marked

the historical turning point of the African Americans’ social and political fortunes.

But unlike Dr King who advocated for a Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, Malcolm X, who was felled by an assassin’s bullet 51 years ago this week, believed that the “white devil”, as he constantly

referred to the white man in his speeches, could only be defeated by beating him in his own game; violence.

In his fiery speeches broadcast across America and the world, Malcolm X was famed for speaking his mind unbridled and pointing things as they were.

“I’m telling it like it is! You never have to worry about me biting my tongue if something I know as truth is on my mind,” Malcolm explains in his explosive book. “Raw, naked truth exchanged between the

black man and the white man is what a lot more of is needed in this country-to clear the air of the racial mirages, clichés, and lies that this country’s very atmosphere has been filled with for 400 years”.

Despite the fact Malcolm X, just like Obama, was from a mixed race family, which explains his “red” complexion, he strongly advocated for purity of races where each man was to marry in their colour.

“The white man’s ‘integrating’ with black women has already changed the complexion and the characteristics of the black race in America,” Malcolm notes in the book, perhaps explaining himself.

“A mixed couple probably finds that black families, black communities, are even more hostile than the white ones. So what’s bound to face ‘integrated’ marriages, except being unwelcomed, unwanted,

‘misfits’ in whichever world they try to live in?”


If Obama’s mother, who was white, had followed the Malcolm Doctrine of ‘purity of races,’ maybe the 44th President of the US might have been white.

The fiery minister of the Nation of Islam not only advocated for the relegation of women to the sidelines in important social matters but also viewed them as instruments through which the moral decadence, or otherwise, of a nation is measured.

“Any country’s moral strength, or its moral weakness, is quickly measurable by the street attire and attitude of its women,” he claimed. “Wherever the spiritual values have been submerged, if not destroyed, by an emphasis upon the material things, invariably, the women reflect it”.

The The Autobiography of Malcolm X generally explores the life of a young black man’s life in America in the 1950s and 1960s by tracking the subject from his birth in Roxbury, Omaha, to New York’s

Harlem underworld, to imprisonment, where he encountered Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.

“I can’t remember all the hustles I had during the next two years in Harlem, after the abrupt end of my riding the trains and peddling reefers to the touring bands,” he recalls in the book. “Any Experienced

hustler will tell you that getting greedy is the quickest road to prison… I would perform the next job only when my bankroll in my pocket begun to get too low”.

Coming out of prison a radically changed man, Malcolm Little changed his name to Malcolm X. All Nation of Islam ministers or mosque leaders dropped their second “slave names” and took X to signify the

lost African tribe name.

Although the fire-spitting preacher had gained fame for his unbridled attack on all those who opposed Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad, to whom he was a devoted disciple, his notoriety for public out

spat hit an all-time high when he told a reporter that the assassination of President J.F. Kennedy was “a case of the chicken coming home to roost”.

“All over America, all over the world, some of the world’s most important personages were saying in various ways, and in far stronger ways than I did, that America’s climate of hate had been responsible for

the President’s death,” he defends himself in the book. “But when Malcolm X said the same thing, it was ominous”.

The Kennedy statement led to his eventual falling out with Elijah Mohammed and the Nation of Islam, marking a radical transition to another phase of his life in the black Americans’ struggle, where he sought

to create a connection between the Negro movement and African leaders. In this quest, he visited Africa where he had audience with post-colonial leaders like Kwameh Nkurumah, Col Abdel Nasser and Jomo


Malcolm X believed his death race begun the moment he fell out with Nation of Islam, claiming that black Muslims wanted to eliminate him for speaking the truth.

“I never have felt that I would live to become an old man when I was a hustler in the ghetto jungle, and then a criminal in prison, it always stayed in my mind that I would die a violent death,” Malcolm X

predicted. “I say it that way because from the things I know, I do not expect to live long enough to read this book in its finished form”.

That prophesy came to pass one afternoon on February 21, 1965, in Harlem, New York when three black gunmen pumped more than 16 shotgun pellets into his huge frame.

Although the assassins, believed to be men from Nation of Islam’s militant wing Fruit of Islam, killed Malcolm X, they probably didn’t kill the fire of self belief, rebellion and political militancy that he ignited

among millions of African Americans.