What inspired Malcolm X to establish the Pan-Africanist Organization of African American Unity (OAAU), and what were the plans of this organization to accomplish their goals of unification?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In 1964, Malcolm X visited Africa and, during his trip, spoke to a number of African political and social leaders including Oginga Odinga, Jomo Kenyatta, Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu, Julius Nyerere, and others. On his visit he also addressed the conference of the Organization for African Unity (OAU, since renamed the African Union), which had been founded in Ethiopia the preceding year.

Malcolm X felt that the OAU should express solidarity with African Americans in their struggle for equality; however, regardless of any actual support extended, he was impressed with the OAU as an organization. Upon returning from Africa, he founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity which, he said, was directly inspired by his visit to the OAU conference. In his speech at the founding of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), he explained,

One of the first things that the independent African nations did was to form an organization called the Organization of African Unity. This organization consists of all independent African states who have reached the agreement to submerge all differences and combine their efforts toward eliminating from the continent of Africa colonialism and all vestiges of oppression and exploitation being suffered by African people. Those who formed the organization of African states have differences. They represent probably every segment, every type of thinking. You have some leaders that are considered Uncle Toms, some leaders who are considered very militant. But even the militant African leaders were able to sit down at the same table with African leaders whom they considered to be Toms, or Tshombes, or that type of character. They forgot their differences for the sole purpose of bringing benefits to the whole.

In the same way, Malcolm X opined, the OAAU should represent the whole of the African American experience and unite them in a shared struggle for freedom and justice by "any means necessary." On his return visit to Africa that year, Malcolm X was greeted to the OAU as an observer representative of the OAAU.

According to Malcolm X's plan for the organization, the OAAU would begin in Harlem, New York and then spread to the rest of the United States and, eventually, the western hemisphere. And, in the one-year course of its existence, the OAAU successfully chartered a number of chapters across the United States. However, Malcolm X's assassination in 1965 led to the swift disintegration of the group.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team