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(1963) Malcolm X, “Message to the Grassroots”

On December 10, 1963, while still the leading spokesman for the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X gave a speech at a rally in Detroit, Michigan.  That speech outlined his basic black nationalist philosophy and established him as a major critic of the civil rights movement.  The speech appears below.

And during the few moments that we have left, we want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me -- us. We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand. We all agree tonight, all of the speakers have agreed, that America has a very serious problem. Not only does America have a very serious problem, but our people have a very serious problem. Americas problem is us. Were her problem. The only reason she has a problem is she doesnt want us here. And every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red, or yellow -- a so-called Negro -- you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because youre not wanted. Once you face this as a fact, then you can start plotting a course that will make you appear intelligent, instead of unintelligent.

What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences. When we come together, we dont come together as Baptists or Methodists. You dont catch hell cause youre a Baptist, and you dont catch hell cause youre a Methodist. You dont catch hell cause youre a Methodist or Baptist. You dont catch hell because youre a Democrat or a Republican. You dont catch hell because youre a Mason or an Elk. And you sure dont catch hell cause youre an American; cause if you was an American, you wouldnt catch no hell. You catch hell cause youre a black man. You catch hell, all of us catch hell, for the same reason.

So we are all black people, so-called Negroes, second-class citizens, ex-slaves. You are nothing but a ex-slave. You dont like to be told that. But what else are you? You are ex-slaves. You didnt come here on the Mayflower. You came here on a slave ship -- in chains, like a horse, or a cow,

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