Monday, May 17

Malcolm X visited Albany to decode NY politics just before assassination


When Malcolm X came to Albany in January 1965, he was receiving death threats from two wildly divergent groups of extremists: white racists and Nation of Islam loyalists enraged that he had renounced their leader. Don Hogan Charles (the first black photographer at the New York Times) had taken a famous 1964 Ebony magazine photo of Malcolm X guarding his family and their Queens home, holding an M1 carbine rifle and peering through the parlor window.

A few weeks after his Albany visit, in February 1965, he would be assassinated.

But like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X never retreated from the battle against racism. 
He was exhilarated after his hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. He was fascinated by interracial social justice movements he had seen overseas. His Albany visit was a result of his exploration of new ways Black men and women could take political power and what he called “radical Black dignity”.

On Jan. 6, Malcolm X rode on a chartered bus to Albany with his good friend, attorney Percy Sutton, who had been elected assemblyman from Harlem to watch the start of the legislative assembly. A white minister along for the ride was surprised to see the charismatic icon who had often declared his distrust of U.S. democracy.

Times Union archival photos show Malcolm X arriving at the Capitol Building, then returning on Jan. 7, taking notes as he listened to Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and legislators.
In “The Sword and the Shield, the Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.”, Black studies scholar Peniel Joseph examines how the two remarkable leaders who died so young influenced each other despite their vast differences.

In the book, Joseph details how stunned Albany reporters were to see Malcolm X. Joseph explains that visiting Albany was part of Malcolm’s research. He was studying the political process in all its tedium, glory and corruption. Joseph writes that by the time of his Albany visit, Malcolm X realized the Nation of Islam’s dream of a separate nation for Black Americans was not feasible.

Malcolm X now “advocated a human rights movement that would utilize grassroots organizing, electoral politics and self defense to achieve racial justice in America…’If Adam Clayton Powell, Martin Luther King Jr and Rev. Milton Galamison can fight for human rights as Christian ministers, I see no reason I can’t do the same as a Muslim minister,’ Malcolm reasoned.”

He even supported voter registration drives. But he disagreed emphatically with Dr. King’s advocacy of nonviolent resistance. Malcolm X urged Blacks to fight back when attacked by racists. He once wondered if a Black nationalist army would be needed to secure the vote. 
When Albany reporters asked Malcolm X what he thought of Rockefeller’s speech, he smiled and replied: “His message was quite long. But the part on civil rights was too short.”

The one time that Malcolm X and Dr. King met in person was in Washington, D.C. at the Senate was in March 1964. Despite their differences, they both wanted to be there to observe the fate of civil rights legislation.



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