Black History

* Malcolm X



  Elke Moritz  
  Last updated:
  March 11, 2000  
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Malcolm X FAQ

Where do I find books and audio-recordings?
Internet-Resources: Mailinglists and Links to related sites
Frequently Asked Questions:email-requests concerning Malcolm and my personal opinion of Malcolm and Islam
Some notes about "Two Roads To Freedom" (in German)


Where do I find books and audio-recordings?  TOP

Audio Recordings of Speeches

In the 1960s, a sublabel of Motown records released some speeches on vinyl. After Spike Lee's movie came out in 1992, some smaller companies released speeches of Malcolm on CD. I also saw a CD single with a speech by Malcolm in a recordstore in Dublin back in 1993.
The major online-cd-stores all stock audio-recordings of Malcolm's speeches, although it might take it them a while to deliver the items. I ordered a tape with "The Wisdom of Malcolm X" from MusicBoulevard which I received after three weeks, since they had to backorder the item. The single-CD by Keith LeBlanc "No Sell Out" (Tommy Boy Records) wasn't available at that time. Perhaps I'll try and order it from another online-cd-store sometime.
Here is a list of the major online-cd-stores and databases which might help you in your search:


Three online-bookstores with huge online-databases are  


Internet-Resources  TOP


Since 1996 I administrate the malcolmx@unix-ag.uni-kl.de Mailinglist. This list was intended to serv as a means to exchange resources on Malcolm X, and to inform people who are interested in Malcolm X of changes to my site. The list has showed nearly no traffic so far, although several people are subscribed to the list.
To subscribe, simply write an email to listserv@unix-ag.uni-kl.de and include in the body of the mail:
subscribe malcolmx your@email.address
(and don't forget to substitute your@email.address with your real emailaddress).
F. Leon Wilson is th administrator of the bigger Malcolm-X list located at MALCOLM-X@maelstrom.stjohns.edu, a list dedicated to the "Discussions of the life, philosophy & influences of Malcolm X". Please contact Mr. F. Leon Wilson (flwilson@INFINET.COM) for further details.


General: Sounds: Speeches:  


Frequently Asked Questions  TOP

Since my web-site is online, many people from all over the world have written to me and asked me all sorts of questions. Of course, all the people had a special intention when they asked me. Quite a few of them were high school students who were working on a school project about Malcolm X. Some were as young as 12 years!
Here is a list of some of the more interesting questions and my particular answers to those requests.

Why did Malcolm X call himself "X"?

Malcolm was born Malcolm Little in 1925. When he joined the Nation Of Islam he changed his last name to X and later, after his pilgrimage to Mecca, he changed his name to El Hajj Malik El Shabazz. He is still known to the public (and in the media) as Malcolm X, while his late wife used the name Betty Shabazz.

The slaves that were brought to the US from 1619 on of course had African names. Since most slave-masters couldn't pronounce these names and also thought of them as non-Christian names, they gave the slaves "Christian" names. These names often were very simple and common names. [Note: see Alex Haley's book "Roots" on this]

Since slaves were the property of their masters, they were referred to as "Johnson's Tom" or "Carver's George". After the civil war, the former slaves kept these names. George W. Carver for example kept the name "George Carver" and later added the middle initial since there was already another person in town with the same name. People later said the W. stood for Washington, but Carver never intended this [Note: see books on George W. Carver]

The Nation Of Islam and their leader, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, tought that the family names used by most African-Americans in the US were not their family names, but the family names of the slave-masters who once owned their ancestors. Their real family names had been forgotten [Note: see Alex Haley's "Roots" on how he discovered the story of his ancestor Kunta Kinte]. Therefore, the members of the Nation Of Islam replaced their last name with an "X". "X" for unknown, since they didn't know their "real" family name, and "X" as a sign that they didn't agree with the deeds of the slave-owners, who often had raped and abused the slaves.

Since in some towns there were several members of the Nation of Islam with the same first name, some called themselves "Michael 5X" and some also kept their last names like "George 3X Johnson" [Note: these name examples are fictional!].

After Malcolm had changed his name to "Shabazz" and especially in the 70s and after Alex Haley's "Roots" was released, many people changed their last names to African names or even changed their names completely.

How did you become interested in Malcolm X?

Why You And Malcolm?

In the mid 80s, when I was about 13 years old, I started listening to Public Enemy songs, we spoke about the US in our English class, and there was a lot of talk about South Africa's apartheids system.
All this, and the lack of precise and neutral information made me start to search the libraries in our area. Quite difficult, since the 60s were long gone and there were no new books available on these topics (the first Malcolm X book to be republished in German came out after Spike Lee's film X in 1992 !!!).
In some encyclopaedias Malcolm wasn't even mentioned at all. (Today that's my criteria for a good encyclopaedia - if they have a good article on Malcolm - fine, if not, dump it.)
I read a lot during that time, started doing serious research with the help of the University library in Mainz which has a very decent collection. I only heard Malcolm's voice in samples in rap songs; here we can be lucky if German TV aires a documentation on Martin Luther King on Jan. 15 or April 4, but the only thing they ever showed on Malcolm was Spike's movie and reports concerning that movie. And all this only since 1991.
Today, I have quite a collection on Malcolm and African-American history. Just yesterday some books I ordered at www.books.com arrived after 8 weeks of delivery.
So I'll read Clarence Clayborne's "Malcolm X - The FBI files" over the weekend. (Besides, do you know what the K. in Malcolm K. Little means ?)
My parents probably won't be too happy about the books, since I've spent so much money on books already. And listening to rap, soul, jazz and gospel music and reading books on African-American history (like Lerone Bennett's "Before the mayflower" which I read during the late 80s and which I now finally have since yesterday) isn't very common in Germany.
Today, I'm very thankful for the internet, which helps me to "talk" to other people. During the 80s, I didn't have anyone to discuss all of this.

I was wondering if you were a Muslim and if you want to convert to islam?

1. What is your opinion of Malcolm X?

2. Do you think that his ideas about race relations were right? Why or why not?

3. Do you think he was a racist person?

1. I admire him and his possibility to change. My paper "Two Roads To Freedom" is strongly influenced by my personal opinion, although this might not be obvious to the reader at first sight. But every author who writes something on Malcolm (or any book in general) takes only the facts etc. that he/she finds interesting and important.
2. Difficult question... It always depends on what ideas you mean and in what context. I don't agree with a lot of things he said, but in some there was some truth. The things Malcolm said have influenced many people but one can't forget that in the 60s many ideas where circulated by a lot of people.
I have always found King's opinion to be too positve and Malcolm's opinion has often been influenced by other people (like Westindian Archie, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad etc.). A complete answer to this question would have to be very complex, since not all things Malcolm said were his own ideas but those of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. It depends on what comments about race relations you mean, since Malcolm's view changed after his split with the Nation of Islam.
I could only tell you my own opinion on this topic, but I don't think one can judge if Malcolm's ideas were right. Most of the ideas which developed during the civil-rights movement or the end of the 1960s haven't been put into practise exactly as they were planned, and Malcolm's ideas in particular have been widely critisized by the majority of (white) people although most have never heard what Malcolm said.
It's difficult for me to judge the situation in America and especially the situation of the 1960s, since I'm living in Germany and was born in 1974, so I haven't lived during the 60s. I'm always very caucious on talking about things I don't know nothing about. It's difficult to get information on Malcolm here in Germany, I have been collecting everything I could get since 1988. But since I haven't studied any social sciences or history, I don't feel that I'm able to say that Malcolm's ideas were right or wrong. There was some truth behind it, and in combination with other ideas they could work out.
3.) I don't see Malcolm as a racist. I see him mostly as a human-being who was easily influenced by men who treated him like a son (with this I mean the person(s) who influenced him while in prison and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in particular). After his break with the NOI his views changed a lot. But his personal change didn't change the public opinion on him. He will always be remembered as the "radical Black Muslim leader" by the white media. When I wrote to the American embassy asking for information on Malcolm and Martin Luther King, jr. I only got infos on MLK, nothing on Malcolm. Some encyclopaedias don't even mention Malcolm, and nearly every library here in Germany has a book on MLK, but only a few have one on Malcolm.
So most people might think that Malcolm was a racist, but I don't. I think I've read too much and been into this topic for too long to have such a wrong and narrow-minded opinion on him. In fact, as you might have guessed while reading this comment, I have some problems putting all this in words. (Especially since English is a foreign language and I haven't spoken real English for several years now...)

Do you think Malcolm X is a true American Hero?

I don't think he is a hero (what heroic deeds did he do?) and he is not a true American. So the answer should be no.
I think Malcolm is a very important but unfortunately often forgotten figure in American history. He was deeply influenced by the American history and society and he influenced America. Just take a look at African-American poetry of the late sixties and early seventies or at the Black Power movement. I also think that he is an important role-model for young (and all other) people .
One thing I admire most in him was his ability to change and to admit his mistak es. And one important thing I learned while researching the topic was that primary sources like autobiographies etc. might leave important facts out but might also be more exact like any secondary sources (that is books on Malcolm, not by Malcolm; Newspaper articles and articles in other books, like history books, encyclopaedias etc.). Something other people write about a person/ a period of time etc. always is different to what the people themselve say. Since I didn't know which sources to trust, I collect everything I could get and read many books and articles. I learned how to work with libraries etc. which helped me a lot here in university. That's a nice side-effect, I think !

Some Notes On "Two Roads To Freedom" (in German)  TOP

Ich fand Malcolm immer zu komplex, um immer nur seine Zeit in der Nation of Islam zu betrachten, wie es die Mehrheit der Bevölkerung gerne macht. Man muss bei ihm vor allen Dingen auch immer den familiären Hintergrund und seine Umgebung berücksichtigen. Die Entwicklung der NOI spielt dabei ebenso eine Rolle, wie die Situation der Familie Little, die Situation in den Großstädten ansprechen, die mit Martins Philosophie nichts anfangen konnten. (siehe dazu auch die Autobiographie und den Abschnitt über das "Fischen gehen".).Dementsprechend war damals auch seine Rhetorik absichtlich provokant und der Philosophie der NOI angepasst. (Nicht zu vergessen: er sah the Honorable Elijah Muhammad lange Zeit als eine Art Vater-Ersatz an).
Mir war es damals bei meiner Arbeit auch wichtig, die Komplexität und die Globalität des Themas anzudeuten. Deswegen die Einleitung, von der ich nicht weiß, ob ich sie heute nochmal so formulieren könnte oder würde. Auch der kurze Abriß der afroamerikanischen Geschichte schien mir sehr wichtig. obwohl alles meiner Meinung nach noch viel ausführlicher hätte sein müssen. Nur meine Lehrerin wollte eben nur 12 Seiten!

Die Idee zu der Arbeit hatte ich schon mehr als zwei Jahre vorher, so daß ich doch genug Zeit zum Material sammeln hatte. Am Ende war ich Mitglied in acht Bibliotheken - von Büchereien von lokalen katholischen Kirchen bis hin zu mehreren Stadtbüchereien & Bibliotheken und insbesondere der Uni-Bib Mainz und der Bücherei im Amerika-Haus in Frankfurt. Die Uni-Bib Mainz hat einen Amerikanistik-Fachbereich mit einer recht guten Fachbereichsbibliothek und einer sehr umfrangreichen Zentralbibliothek. Meistens konnte ich aber nur Bücher aus dem "offenen Bereich" der Bibliothek leihen, da man die auch ohne eintägige Wartezeit für 4 Wochen leihen konnte. Auf das Amerika-Haus bin ich durch die Amerikanische Botschaft gekommen. Die Botschaft hat meine Anfrage nach Material nach Frankfurt umgeleitet, woher ich einiges an Material über die Bürgerrechtsbewegung erhielt, allerdings befassen sich diese Infobroschüren der US-Regierung (USIS) hauptsächlich mit Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm wird fast nie erwähnt. Das Amerika-Haus in Frankfurt hat eine recht gute Bücherei mit vielen Zeitschriften und Büchern, sowie eine Mediothek, die ich bei meinem einzigen Besuch dort aber nicht nutzen konnte. Kopien kosteten damals leider auch 20Pf/Stück. Allerdings habe ich einige Bücher dort geliehen, die ich dann später mit der Post zurückgeschickt habe. Amerika-Häuser gibt es wohl in mehreren grossen Städten, evtl. ist ja auch eins bei Dir in der Nähe. Die Adressen hatte ich aus den Telefonbüchern von Bonn & Frankfurt. Ach ja, zu den Zeitschriften: Die Zeitschrift "Ebony" hat oft Artikel über Malcolm, meistens in der Februar-Ausgabe (wegen Black History Month). Die meisten Bücher habe ich allerdings erst nach der Facharbeit gekauft. Teilweise in Irland (ich war mehrmals in Dublin), teilweise im Internet (bei www.books.com) bestellt. Ich sammele immer noch alles, was mir unter die Finger kommt.

Wenn ich heute wieder eine solche Arbeit über ein ähnliches Thema schreiben müßte, würde ich wahrscheinlich keine "Biographie" mehr wählen, sondern eher etwas wie "Die Beeinflussung der afro-amerikanischen Dichtung nach 1965 durch Malcolm X" oder "Malcolm X Einflüsse auf die moderne amerikanische Musik" oder "Afro-Amerikanische Frauen im 19. Jahrhundert" oder "Dichtung der Harlem Rennaissance" oder oder oder aussuchen. Es gibt ja soviele Möglichkeiten!