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Photo: The Ethics Centre

 

As a child, I received conflicting views about Malcolm X. My father praised him, but when I went to school and mentioned X during a Black History Month lesson, my teacher shut me down because he didn’t have a nonviolent approach.

When I went home and told my father about this, he explained that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Freedom Riders and others were more palatable to the masses because they were nonviolent. Malcolm X and other activists, like the Black Panthers, were considered threatening.

As I aged, I learned about the genius of Dr. King’s strategy, and why the nonviolent approach was so revealing and powerful, but I am still very curious about how it contrasts with the approach of Malcolm X, the Black Panthers and similar activist.

What if more African American communities pulled their resources together for the benefit of their communities today? Is it possible, and would that community be able to avoid being destroyed by the powers that be? I hope that the following books can shed light on viable solutions for today.

 

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The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation 

by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin's son James, about Alberta King's son Martin Luther,Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin’s son James, about Alberta King’s son Martin Luther, and Louise Little’s son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them.

In her groundbreaking and essential debut, The Three Mothers, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling the story of the three women who raised and shaped some of America’s most pivotal heroes.

 

Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little were all born at the beginning of the 20th century and forced to contend with the prejudices of Jim Crow as Black women. These three extraordinary women passed their knowledge to their children with the hope of helping them to survive in a society that would deny their humanity from the very beginning.

From Louise instructing her children about their activist roots to Berdis encouraging James to express himself through writing to Alberta basing all her lessons in faith and social justice. These women used their strength and motherhood to push their children toward greatness, all with a conviction that every human being deserves dignity and respect despite the rampant discrimination they faced.

These three mothers taught resistance and a fundamental belief in the worth of Black people to their sons, even when these beliefs flew in the face of America’s racist practices and led to ramifications for all three families’ safety. The fight for equal justice and dignity came more than anything else for the three mothers.

These women, their similarities, and differences, as individuals and as mothers, represent a piece of history left untold and a celebration of Black motherhood long overdue.

 

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne 

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation An epic biography of Malcolm X finally emerges, drawing on hundreds of hours of the author’s interviews, rewriting much of the known narrative. Les Payne, the renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, embarked in 1990 on a thirty-year-long quest to interview anyone he could find who had known Malcolm X―all living siblings of the Malcolm Little family, classmates, street friends, cellmates, Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and police officers, and political leaders around the world. His goal was ambitious to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction.

The result is this historic biography that conjures a never-before-seen world of its protagonist, a work whose title is inspired by a phrase Malcolm X used when he saw his Hartford followers stir with purpose, as if the dead were truly arising, to overcome the obstacles of racism. Setting Malcolm’s life not only within the Nation of Islam but against the larger backdrop of American history, the book traces the life of one of the twentieth century’s most politically relevant figures “from street criminal to devoted moralist and revolutionary.”

In tracing Malcolm X’s life from his Nebraska birth in 1925 to his Harlem assassination in 1965, Payne provides searing vignettes culled from Malcolm’s Depression-era youth, describing the influence of his Garveyite parents: his father, Earl, a circuit-riding preacher who was run over by a streetcar in Lansing, Michigan, in 1929, and his mother, Louise, who continued to instill black pride in her children after Earl’s death. Filling each chapter with resonant drama, Payne follows Malcolm’s exploits as a petty criminal in Boston and Harlem in the 1930s and early 1940s to his religious awakening and conversion to the Nation of Islam in a Massachusetts penitentiary.

With a biographer’s unwavering determination, Payne corrects the historical record and delivers extraordinary revelations―from the unmasking of the mysterious NOI founder “Fard Muhammad,” who preceded Elijah Muhammad; to a hair-raising scene, conveyed in cinematic detail, of Malcolm and Minister Jeremiah X Shabazz’s 1961 clandestine meeting with the KKK; to a minute-by-minute account of Malcolm X’s murder at the Audubon Ballroom.

Introduced by Payne’s daughter and primary researcher, Tamara Payne, who, following her father’s death, heroically completed the biography, The Dead Are Arising is a penetrating and riveting work that affirms the centrality of Malcolm X to the African American freedom struggle.

 

Black Minded: The Political Philosophy of Malcolm X by Michael E. Sawyer

Black Minded: The Political Philosophy of Malcolm X by Michael E. SawyerKnown as ‘the angriest black man in America’, Malcolm X was one of the most famous activists to ever live. Going beyond biography, Black Minded examines Malcolm X’s philosophical system, restoring his thinking to the pantheon of Black Radical Thought.

Michael Sawyer argues that the foundational concepts of Malcolm X’s political philosophy – economic and social justice, strident opposition to white supremacy and Black internationalism – are often obscured by an emphasis on biography.

 

The text demonstrates the way in which Malcolm X’s philosophy lies at the intersection of the thought of W.E.B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon and is an integral part of the revolutionary politics formed to alleviate the plight of people of African descent globally.

Exploring themes of ontology, the body, geographic space and revolution, Black Minded provides a much-needed appraisal of Malcolm X’s political philosophy.

 

Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr. 

Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr. In Oakland, California, in 1966, community college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton armed themselves, began patrolling the police and promised to prevent police brutality. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement that called for full citizenship rights for blacks within the U.S., the Black Panther Party rejected the legitimacy of the U.S. government and positioned itself as part of a global struggle against American imperialism. In the face of intense repression, the Party flourished, becoming the center of a revolutionary movement with offices in 68 U.S. cities and powerful allies around the world.

 

Black against Empire is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party. The authors analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence.

Bold, engrossing, and richly detailed, this book cuts through the mythology and obfuscation, revealing the political dynamics that drove the explosive growth of this revolutionary movement, and its disastrous unraveling. Informed by twelve years of meticulous archival research, as well as familiarity with most of the former Party leadership and many rank-and-file members, this book is the definitive history of one of the greatest challenges ever posed to American state power.

 

How the theories of Malcolm X could apply to today's social justice movement
Ke Parks

Ke, branch manager at the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library, was born and raised in Cincinnati. She attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for visual art, but after graduating from MICA, she decided to pursue librarianship, realizing that she’d be able to help people and be creative. Ke is interested in history (especially Black and urban history) and is always trying to figure out how she can better serve the community. 

 

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Written by Crystal Kendrick

President of The Voice of Your Customer and founder of The Voice of Black Cincinnati.

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