THE LAST SPEECH
February 14, 1965
note - Malcolm delivered this speech on the very night that his home in New York was firebombed. He was
terribly tired and worried, yet he still showed up all the way in Detroit-- this shows his extreme courage and determination.
This is probably his last speech outside of New York, and displays his intellect and honesty, as well as his ideas and understanding
close to his death.
Distinguished guests, brothers and sisters,
ladies and gentlemen, friends and enemies:
I want to point out first that I am very happy
to be here this evening and I'm thankful [to the Afro-American Broadcasting Company] for the invitation to come here to Detroit
this evening. I was in a house last night that was bombed, my own. It didn't destroy all my clothes, not all, but you know
what happens when fire dashes through -- they get smoky. The only thing I could get my hands on before leaving was what I
have on now.
It isn't something that made me lose confidence
in what I am doing, because my wife understands and I have children from this size on down, and even in their young age they
understand. I think they would rather have a father or brother or whatever the situation may be who will take a stand in the
face of any kind of reaction from narrow-minded people rather than to compromise and later on have to grow up in shame and
So I just ask you to excuse my appearance.
I don't normally come out in front of people without a shirt and a tie. I guess that's somewhat a holdover from the 'Black
Muslim' movement, which I was in. That's one of the good aspects of that movement. It teaches you to be very careful and conscious
of how you look, which is a positive contribution on their part. But that positive contribution on their part is greatly offset
by too many other liabilities.
Tonight we want to discuss -- and by the way,
also, when I came here today I was a bit -- last night, the temperature was about twenty above and when this explosion took
place, I was caught in what I had on, some pajamas. And in trying to get my family out of the house, none of us stopped for
any clothes at that point -- twenty-degree cold. I myself was -- I had gotten them into the house of the neighbor next door.
So I thought perhaps being in that condition for so long I would get pneumonia or a cold or something like that, so a doctor
came today -- a nice doctor too -- and he shot something in my arm that naturally put me to sleep. I've been back there asleep
ever since the program started in order to get back in shape. So if I have a tendency to stutter or slow down, it's still
the effects of that drug. I don't know what kind it was, but it was good; it makes you sleep, and there's nothing like sleeping
through a whole lot of excitement.
Tonight one of the things that has to be stressed
is that which has not only the United States very much worried but which also has France, Great Britain, and most of the powers,
who formerly were known as colonial powers, worried also, and that primarily is the African revolution. They are more concerned
with the revolution that's taking place on the African continent than they are with the revolution in Asia and in Latin America.
And this is because there are so many people of African ancestry within the domestic confines or jurisdiction of these various
There are four different types of people in
the Western Hemisphere, all of whom have Africa as a common heritage, common origin, and that's the -- those of our people
in Latin America, who are Black, but who are in the Spanish-speaking areas. Many of them ofttimes migrate back to Spain, the
only difference being Spain has such bad economic conditions until many of the people from Latin America don't think it's
worthwhile to migrate back there. And then the British and the French had a great deal of control in the Caribbean, in the
West Indies. And so now you have many people from the West Indies migrating to both London -- rather both England and France.
The people from the British West Indies go to London, and those from the French West Indies go to Paris. And it has put France
and England since World War II in the precarious position of having a sort of a commonwealth structure that makes it easy
for all of the people in the commonwealth territories to come into their country with no restrictions. So there's an increasing
number of dark-skinned people in England and also in France.
When I was in Africa in May, I noticed a tendency
on the part of the Afro-Americans to, what I call lollygag. Everybody else who was over there had something on the ball, something
they were doing, something constructive. For instance, in Ghana, just to take Ghana as an example. There would be many refugees
in Ghana from South Africa. But those who were in Ghana were organized and were serving as pressure groups, some were training
for military -- some were being trained in how to be soldiers, but others were involved as a pressure group or lobby group
to let the people of Ghana never forget what's happening to the brother in South Africa. Also you'd have brothers there from
Angola and Mozambique. But all of the Africans who were exiles from their particular country and would be in a place like
Ghana or Tanganyika, now Tanzania, they would be training. Their every move would still be designed to offset what was happening
to their people back home where they had left.
The only difference on the continent was the
American Negro. Those who were over there weren't even thinking about these over here. This was the basic difference. The
Africans, when they escaped from their respective countries that were still colonized, they didn't try and run away from the
problem. But as soon as they got where they were going, they then began to organize into pressure groups to get governmental
support at the international level against the injustices they were experiencing back home.
And as I said, the American Negro, or the
Afro-American, who was in these various countries, some working for this government, some working for that government, some
just in business -- they were just socializing, they had turned their back on the cause over here, they were partying, you
And when I went through one country in particular,
I heard a lot of their complaints and I didn't make any move on them.
But when I got to another country, I found
the Afro-Americans there were making the same complaints. So we sat down and talked and we organized a branch in this particular
country, a branch of the OAAU, Organization of Afro-American Unity. That one was the only one in existence at that time. Then
during the summer, when I went back to Africa, I was able in each country that I visited, to get the Afro-American community
together and organize them and make them aware of their responsibility to those of us who are still here in the lion's den.
They began to do this quite well, and when
I got to Paris and London -- there are many Afro-Americans in Paris, and many in London. And in December -- no, November --
we organized a group in Paris and just within a very short time they had grown into a well-organized unit. And they, in conjunction
with the African community, invited me to Paris, Tuesday, to address a large gathering of Parisians and Afro-Americans and
people from the Caribbean and also from Africa who were interested in our struggle in this country and the rate of progress
that we have been making.
But since the French government and the British
government and this government here, the United States, know that I have been almost fanatically stressing the importance
of the Afro-American uniting with the African and working as a coalition, especially in areas which are of mutual benefit
to all of us. And the governments in these different places were frightened because they know that the Black revolution that's
taking place on the outside of their house --
And I might point out right here that colonialism
or imperialism, as the slave system of the West is called, is not something that's just confined to England or France or the
United States. But the interests in this country are in cahoots with the interests in France and the interests in Britain.
It's one huge complex or combine, and it creates what's known as not the American power structure or the French power structure,
but it's an international power structure. And this international power structure is used to suppress the masses of dark-skinned
people all over the world and exploit them of their natural resources.
So that the era in which you and I have been
living during the past ten years most specifically has witnessed the upsurge on the part of the Black man in Africa against
the power structure.
He wants his freedom.
Now, mind you, the power structure is international,
and as such, its own domestic base is in London, in Paris, in Washington, D.C., and so forth. And the outside or external
phase of the revolution, which is manifest in the attitude and action of the Africans today is troublesome enough. The revolution
on the outside of the house, or the outside of the structure, is troublesome enough. But now the powers that be are beginning
to see that this struggle on the outside by the Black man is affecting, infecting the Black man who is on the inside of that
structure. I hope you understand what I'm trying to say.
The newly awakened people all over the world
pose a problem for what's known as Western interests, which is imperialism, colonialism, racism, and all these other negative
isms or vulturistic isms. Just as the external forces pose a grave threat, they can now see that the internal forces pose
an even greater threat. But the internal forces pose an even greater threat only when they have properly analyzed the situation
and know what the stakes really are.
Just by advocating a coalition of Africans,
Afro-Americans, Arabs, and Asians who live within the structure, it automatically has upset France, which is supposed to be
one of the most liberal -- heh! -- countries on earth, and it made them expose their hand. England the same way. And I don't
have to tell you about this country that we are living in now.
So when you count the number of dark-skinned
people in the Western Hemisphere you can see that there are probably over 100 million. When you consider Brazil has two-thirds
what we call colored, or nonwhite, and Venezuela, Honduras and other Central American countries, Cuba and Jamaica, and the
United States and even Canada -- when you total all these people up, you have probably over 100 million. And this 100 million
on the inside of the power structure today is what is causing a great deal of concern for the power structure itself.
Not a great deal of concern for all white
people, but a great deal of concern for most white people. See, if I said "all white people" then they would call me a racist
for giving a blanket condemnation of things.
And this is true; this is how they do it.
They take one little word out of what you say, ignore all the rest, and then begin to magnify it all over the world to make
you look like what you actually aren't. And I'm very used to that.
So we saw that the first thing to do was to
unite our people, not only unite us internally, but we have to be united with our brothers and sisters abroad. It was for
that purpose that I spent five months in the Middle East and Africa during the summer. The trip was very enlightening, inspiring,
and fruitful. I didn't go into any African country, or any country in the Middle East for that matter, and run into any closed
door, closed mind, or closed heart. I found a warm reception and an amazingly deep interest and sympathy for the Black man
in this country in regards to our struggle for human rights.
While I was traveling, I had a chance to speak
in Cairo, or rather Alexandria, with President [Gamal Abdel-]Nasser for about an hour and a half. He's a very brilliant man.
And I can see why they're so afraid of him, and they are afraid of him -- they know he can cut off their oil. And actually
the only thing power respects is power. Whenever you find a man who's in a position to show power against power then that
man is respected. But you can take a man who has power and love him all the rest of your life, nonviolently and forgivingly
and all the rest of those ofttime things, and you won't get anything out of it.
So I also had a chance to speak to President
[Julius K.] Nyerere in Tanganyika, which is now Tanzania, and also [President Jomo] Kenyata -- I know that all of you know
him. He was the head of the Mau Mau, which really brought freedom to many of the African countries. This is true. The Mau
Mau played a major role in bringing about freedom for Kenya, and not only for Kenya but other African countries. Because what
the Mau Mau did frightened the white man so much in other countries until he said, "Well I better get this thing straight
before some of them pop up here." This is good to study because you see what makes him react: Nothing loving makes him react,
nothing forgiving makes him react. The only time he reacts is when he knows you can hurt him, and when you let him know you
can hurt him he has to think two or three times before he tries to hurt you. But if you're not going to do nothing but return
that hurt with love -- why good night! He knows you're out of your mind.
And also I had an opportunity to speak with
President [Nnamdi] Azikiwe in Nigeria, President [Kwame] Nkrumah in Ghana, and President Sekou Toure in Guinea. And in all
of these people I found nothing but warmth, friendship, sympathy, and a desire to help the Black man in this country in fighting
our problem. And we have a very complex problem.
Now I hope you'll forgive me for just speaking
so informally tonight, but I frankly think it's always better to be informal. As far as I am concerned, I can speak to people
better in an informal way than I can with all of this stiff formality that ends up meaning nothing. Plus, when people are
informal, they're relaxed. When they're relaxed, their mind is more open, and they can weigh things more objectively. Whenever
you and I are discussing our problems we need to be very objective, very cool, calm, collected. But that doesn't mean we should
always be. There's a time to be cool and a time to be hot. See, you got messed up into thinking that there's only one time
for everything. There's a time to love and a time to hate. Even Solomon said that, and he was in that Book too. You're just
taking something out of the Book that fits your cowardly nature. And when you don't want to fight, you say, "Well, Jesus said
don't fight." But I don't even believe Jesus said that.
Also I am very pleased to see so many who
have come out to always see for yourself, where you can hear for yourself, and then think for yourself. Then you'll be in
a better position to make an intelligent judgment for yourself. But if you form the habit of listening to what others say
about something or some one or reading what someone else has written about someone, somebody can confuse you and misuse you.
So as Afro-Americans or Black people here in the Western Hemisphere, you and I have to learn to weigh things for ourselves.
No matter what the [white] man says, you better look into it.
And a good example of why it's so important
to look into things for yourself: I was on a plane between Algiers and Geneva and it just happened that two other Americans
were sitting in the two seats next to me. None of us knew each other and the other two were white, one a male, the other a
female. And after we had been flying along for about forty minutes, the lady, she says, "Could I ask you a personal question?"
I said, '"Yes." She said, "Well--" she had
been looking at my briefcase, and she said, "Well, what does that X--" she says, "What kind of last name could you have that
begins with X?" So I said, "That's it -- X." And she said, "Well, what does the 'M' stand for?" I said, "Malcolm." So she
was quiet for about ten minutes, and she turned to me and she says, "You're not Malcolm X?"
You see, we had been riding along in a nice
conversation like three human beings, you know, no hostility, no animosity, just human. And she couldn't take this, she said,
"Well you're not who I was looking for," you know. And she ended up telling me that she was looking for horns and all that,
and for someone who was out to kill all white people, as if all white people could be killed. This was her general attitude,
and this attitude had been given her -- this image had been given [to] her by the press.
So before I get involved in anything nowadays,
I have to straighten out my own position, which is clear. I am not a racist in any form whatsoever. I don't believe in any
form of racism. I don't believe in any form of discrimination or segregation. I believe in Islam. I am a Muslim. And there's
nothing wrong with being a Muslim, nothing wrong with the religion of Islam. It just teaches us to believe in Allah as the
God. Those of you who are Christians probably believe in the same God, because I think you believe in the God who created
the universe. That's the One we believe in, the one who created the universe, the only difference being you call Him God and
I -- we call Him Allah. The Jews call him Jehovah. If you could understand Hebrew, you'd probably call him Jehovah too. If
you could understand Arabic, you'd probably call him Allah.
But since the white man, your "friend," took
your language away from you during slavery, the only language you know is his language. You know, your friend's language.
So you call for the same God he calls for. When he's putting a rope around your neck, you call for God and he calls for God.
[Laughter and applause.] And you wonder why the one you call on never answers you.
So that once you realize that I believe in
the Supreme Being who created the universe, and believe in him as being one -- I also have been taught in Islam that one God
only has one religion, and that religion is called Islam, and all of the prophets who came forth taught that religion -- Abraham,
Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, all of them. And by believing in one God and one religion and all of the prophets, it creates unity.
There's no room for argument, no need for us to be arguing with each other.
And also in that religion, of the real religion
of Islam -- when I was in the Black Muslim movement, I wasn't -- they didn't have the real religion of Islam in that movement.
It was something else. And the real religion of Islam doesn't teach anyone to judge another human being by the color of his
skin. The yardstick that is used by the Muslim to measure another man is not the man's color but the man's deeds, the man's
conscious behavior, the man's intentions. And when you use that as a standard of measurement or judgment, you never go wrong.
But when you just judge a man because of the
color of his skin, then you're committing a crime, because that's the worst kind of judgment. If you judged him just because
he was a Jew, that's not as bad as judging him because he's Black. Because a Jew can hide his religion. He can say he's something
else -- and which a lot of them do that, they say they're something else. But the Black man can't hide. When they start indicting
us because of our color that means we're indicted before we're born, which is the worst kind of crime that can be committed.
The Muslim religion has eliminated all tendencies to judge a man according to the color of his skin, but rather the judgment
is based upon his deeds.
And when, prior to going into the Muslim world,
I didn't have any -- Elijah Muhammad had taught us that the white man could not enter into Makkah in Arabia, and all of us
who followed him, we believed it. And he said the reason he couldn't enter was because he's white and inherently evil, it's
impossible to change him. And the only thing that would change him is Islam, and he can't accept Islam because by nature he's
evil. And therefore by not being able to accept Islam and become a Muslim, he could never enter Makkah. This is how he taught
us, you know.
So when I got over there and went to Makkah
and saw these people who were blond and blue-eyed and pale-skinned and all those things, I said, "Well!" But I watched them
closely. And I noticed that though they were white, and they would call themselves white, there was a difference between them
and the white one over here. And that basic difference was this: in Asia or the Arab world or in Africa, where the Muslims
are, if you find one who says he's white, all he's doing is using an adjective to describe something that's incidental about
him, one of his incidental characteristics; so there's nothing else to it, he's just white.
But when you get the white man over here in
America and he says he's white, he means something else. You can listen to the sound of his voice -- when he says he's white,
he means he's a boss. That's right. That's what "white" means in this language. You know the expression, "free, white, and
twenty-one." He made that up. He's letting you know all of them mean the same. "White" means free, boss. He's up there. So
that when he says he's white he has a little different sound in his voice. I know you know what I'm talking about.
This was what I saw was missing in the Muslim
world. If they said they were white, it was incidental. White, black, brown, red, yellow, doesn't make any difference what
color you are. So this was the religion that I had accepted and had gone there to get a better knowledge of it.
But despite the fact that I saw that Islam
was a religion of brotherhood, I also had to face reality. And when I got back into this American society, I'm not in a society
that practices brotherhood. I'm in a society that might preach it on Sunday, but they don't practice it on no day -- on any
day. And so, since I could see that America itself is a society where there is no brotherhood and that this society is controlled
primarily by racists and segregationists -- and it is -- who are in Washington, D.C., in positions of power. And from Washington,
D.C., they exercise the same forms of brutal oppression against dark-skinned people in South and North Vietnam, or in the
Congo, or in Cuba, or in any other place on this earth where they're trying to exploit and oppress. This is a society whose
government doesn't hesitate to inflict the most brutal form of punishment and oppression upon dark-skinned people all over
To wit, right now what's going on in and around
Saigon and Hanoi and in the Congo and elsewhere. They are violent when their interests are at stake. But all of that violence
that they display at the international level, when you and I want just a little bit of freedom, we're supposed to be nonviolent.
They're violent. They're violent in Korea, they're violent in Germany, they're violent in the South Pacific, they're violent
in Cuba, they're violent wherever they go. But when it comes time for you and me to protect ourselves against lynchings, they
tell us to be nonviolent.
That's a shame. Because we get tricked into
being nonviolent, and when somebody stands up and talks like I just did, they say, "Why, he's advocating violence!" Isn't
that what they say? Every time you pick up your newspaper, you see where one of these things has written into it that I'm
advocating violence. I have never advocated any violence. I've only said that Black people who are the victims of organized
violence perpetrated upon us by the Klan, the Citizens' Council, and many other forms, we should defend ourselves. And when
I say that we should defend ourselves against the violence of others, they use their press skillfully to make the world think
that I'm calling on violence, period. I wouldn't call on anybody to be violent without a cause. But I think the Black man
in this country, above and beyond people all over the world, will be more justified when he stands up and starts to protect
himself, no matter how many necks he has to break and heads he has to crack.
I saw in the paper where they -- on the television
where they took this Black woman down in Selma, Alabama, and knocked her right down on the ground, dragging her down the street.
You saw it, you're trying to pretend like you didn't see it 'cause you knew you should've done something about it and didn't.
It showed the sheriff and his henchmen throwing this Black woman on the ground -- on the ground.
And Negro men standing around doing nothing
about it saying, "Well, let's overcome them with our capacity to love." What kind of phrase is that? "Overcome them with our
capacity to love." And then it disgraces the rest of us, because all over the world the picture is splashed showing a Black
woman a with some white brutes, with their knees on her holding her down, and full-grown Black men standing around watching
it. Why, you are lucky they let you stay on earth, much less stay in the country.
When I saw it I dispatched a wire to Rockwell;
Rockwell was one of the agitators down there, Rockwell, this [George] Lincoln Rockwell [leader of the American Nazi Party].
And the wire said in essence that this is
to warn him that I am no longer held in check from fighting white supremacists by Elijah Muhammad's separatist 'Black Muslim'
movement. And that if Rockwell's presence in Alabama causes harm to come to Dr. King or any other Black person in Alabama
who's doing nothing other than trying to enjoy their rights, then Rockwell and his Ku Klux Klan friends would be met with
maximum retaliation from those of us who are not handcuffed by this nonviolent philosophy. And I haven't heard from Rockwell
Brothers and sisters, if you and I would just
realize that once we learn to talk the language that they understand, they will then get the point. You can't ever reach a
man if you don't speak his language. If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can't come to him with peace. Why, good
night! He'll break you in two, as he has been doing all along. If a man speaks French, you can't speak to him in German. If
he speaks Swahili, you can't communicate with him in Chinese. You have to find out what does this man speak. And once you
know his language, learn how to speak his language, and he'll get the point. There'll be some dialogue, some communication,
and some understanding will be developed.
You've been in this country long enough to
know the language the Klan speaks. They only know one language. And what you and I have to start doing in 1965 -- I mean that's
what you have to do, because most of us already been doing it -- is start learning a new language. Learn the language that
they understand. And then when they come up on our doorstep to talk, we can talk. And they will get the point. There'll be
a dialogue, there'll be some communication, and I'm quite certain there will then be some understanding. Why? Because the
Klan is a cowardly outfit. They have perfected the art of making Negroes be afraid. As long as the Negro's afraid, the Klan
is safe. But the Klan itself is cowardly. One of them will never come after one of you. They all come together. Sure, and
they're scared of you.
And you sit there when they're putting the
rope around your neck saying, "Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do." As long as they've been doing it, they're
experts at it, they know what they're doing!
No, since they federal government has shown
that it isn't going to do anything about it but talk, it is a duty, it's your and my duty as men, as human beings, it is our
duty to our people, to organize ourselves and let the government know that if they don't stop that Klan, we'll stop it ourselves.
And then you'll see the government start doing something about it. But don't ever think that they're going to do it just on
some kind of morality basis, no. So I don't believe in violence -- that's why I want to stop it. And you can't stop it with
love, not love of those things down there, no. So, we only mean vigorous action in self-defense, and that vigorous action
we feel we're justified in initiating by any means necessary.
Now, the press, behind something like that,
they call us racist and people who are "violent in reverse." This is how they psycho you. They make you think that if you
try to stop the Klan from lynching you, you're practicing "violence in reverse." Pick up on this, I hear a lot of you all
parrot what the [white] man says. You say, "I don't want to be a Ku Klux Klan in reverse." Well, you - heh! -- if a criminal
comes around your house with his gun, brother, just because he's got a gun and he's robbing your house, brother, and he's
a robber, it doesn't make you a robber because you grab your gun and run him out. No, see, the man is using some tricky logic
on you. And he has absolutely got a Ku Klux Klan outfit that goes through the country frightening black people. Now, I say
it is time for black people to put together the type of action, the unity, that is necessary to pull the sheet off of them
so they won't be frightening black people any longer. That's all. And when we say this, the press calls us "racist in reverse."
"Don't struggle -- only within the ground
rules that the people you're struggling against have laid down." Why, this is insane. But it shows you how they can do it.
With skillful manipulating of the press, they're able to make the victim look like the criminal, and the criminal look like
Right now in New York we had a couple cases
where police grabbed the brother and beat him unmercifully -- and then charged him with assaulting them. They used the press
to make it look like he's the criminal and they're the victim. This is how they do it, and if you study how they do it [t]here,
then you'll know how they do it over here. It's the same game going all the time, and if you and I don't awaken and see what
this man is doing to us, then it'll be too late. They may have the gas ovens already built before you realize that they're
One of the shrewd ways that they use the press
to project us in the eye or image of a criminal: they take statistics. And with the press they feed these statistics to the
public, primarily the white public. Because there are some well-meaning persons in the white public as well as bad-meaning
persons in the white public. And whatever the government is going to do, it always wants the public on its side, whether it's
the local government, state government, federal government. So they use the press to create images. And at the local level,
they'll create an image by feeding statistics to the press -- through the press showing the high crime rate in the Negro community.
As soon as this high crime rate is emphasized through the press, then people begin to look upon the Negro community as a community
And then any Negro in the community can be
stopped in the street. "Put your hands up," and they pat you down. You might be a doctor, a lawyer, a preacher, or some other
kind of Uncle Tom. But despite your professional standing, you'll find that you're the same victim as the man who's in the
alley. Just because you're Black and you live in a Black community, which has been projected as a community of criminals.
This is done. And once the public accepts this image also, it paves the way for a police-state type of activity in the Negro
community. They can use any kind of brutal methods to suppress Blacks because "they're criminals anyway." And what has given
this image? The press again, by letting the power structure or the racist element in the power structure use them in that
A very good example was the riots that took
place here during the summer: I was in Africa, I read about them over there. If you'll notice, they referred to the rioters
as vandals, hoodlums, thieves. They tried to make it appear that this wasn't -- they tried to make it -- and they did this.
They skillfully took the burden off the society for its failure to correct these negative conditions in the Black community.
It took the burden completely off the society and put it right on the community by using the press to make it appear that
the looting and all of this was proof that the whole act was nothing but vandals and robbers and thieves, who weren't really
interested in anything other than that which was negative. And I hear many old, dumb, brainwashed Negroes who parrot the same
old party line that the man handed down in his paper.
It was not the case that they were just