After Malcolm X returned to the United States from his pilgrimage to Mecca and a subsequent worldwide tour in 1964, he created the Organization for Afro-American Unity (OAAU). The focus of this organization was to foster community uplift among Black Americans. While Malcolm X was previously averse to support from...
After Malcolm X returned to the United States from his pilgrimage to Mecca and a subsequent worldwide tour in 1964, he created the Organization for Afro-American Unity (OAAU). The focus of this organization was to foster community uplift among Black Americans. While Malcolm X was previously averse to support from whites during his years with the Nation of Islam (NOI), by 1964, he realized that some white people could serve as allies. However, he insisted that whites not be included in the OAAU until its black members fostered a strong organization, for themselves and by themselves.
Malcolm X went on his pilgrimage, with financial help from his older sister, Ella, after he was silenced by the NOI's leader, Elijah Muhammad, for his "chickens coming home to roost" comment in response to President Kennedy's assassination. Malcolm X's reasoning was that white society's tolerance of unmitigated violence against black people had finally resulted in their confrontation with the brutality that they were fostering and tolerating.
Malcolm X's suspension occurred around the same time that he was learning unpleasant truths about Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad had fathered numerous children out of wedlock with young women in the organization, though the NOI did not condone sex outside of marriage. Muhammad was also supposedly speaking disparagingly of Malcolm behind his back. Malcolm's increasing disillusionment with the organization, coupled with his realization that its teachings about white people were hateful, led to a break with the NOI. Though he no longer agreed with the NOI's teachings, he saw them as a consequence of black people existing under the heel of racism and white supremacy for centuries.
Malcolm's pilgrimage and world tour gave him a more expansive view of humanity and helped him see that the struggles of Black Americans were connected to the freedom struggles of non-whites around the world. His commitment to Islam led him to believe that the religion possessed the key to helping people of all races understand "the Oneness of Man," or the interconnectedness of humanity. In organizing the OAAU, Malcolm X remained particularly concerned with the plights of poor and working-class Americans. This was a sympathy that he established when he began to work with the NOI, which established itself in black ghettos.
It's impossible to know if Malcolm would have been successful. His exit from the Nation of Islam sowed seeds of hostility against him within the black community. Thus, the organization may have had difficulty expanding beyond Harlem, with the splintering in loyalties that may have resulted. On the other hand, Malcolm X's fame and his popularity among whites who were sympathetic with black nationalist politics may have given him the resources that he would have needed to expand his project. Many people, most popularly Spike Lee, also like to think that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. (who only met once) may have eventually converged in their politics. Malcolm had abandoned his hostility against white people, and King was becoming increasingly radical. Both, too, harbored a strong interest in helping the impoverished and the exploited. Still, one can only dream about the possibilities.