Standing Tall: Malcolm X’s Speech at the Oxford Union Debate


“Controversial to some, revolutionary to others, the above declaration was uttered by Malcolm X during a public debate at the Oxford Union Society in December, 1964. On this occasion Malcolm X, or El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz – the name he officially assumed months before – was special guest of the Oxford University’s debate society. He was invited to engage in a debate on the motion that ‘extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.’ Originally stated by U.S. republican senator Barry Goldwater earlier that year, the debated motion provided Malcolm X with a unique opportunity to express his newly developed political and humanitarian ideas and to address the systematic distortion of his image in the U.S. and Europe. Above all, it represented the opportunity for Malcolm X to leave a last but perennial sample of his revolutionary thought ‘standing tall at the heart of the oldest, most important university of the western world.’ Famous for the attack on what he perceived as the inherent racism of white people, as well as his black radicalism, Malcolm X has been remembered mostly as the Nation of Islam’s leading ideological spokesman. Whilst Malcolm X’s myth as the young ghetto outlaw who became a radical political preacher after being released from prison is fairly well known, the important epiphany he experienced after splitting with the NOI in 1964 and undertaking regular visits to Africa and the Middle East are considerably less explored. Malcolm X’s last year alive represented a period of rapid development of his political and philosophical thought. Given his constant travels and external concerns during the period, this moment of revision and improvement was manifested in his Oxford Union exposition. Political scientist and Malcolm X’s specialist, Saladin M. Ambar considered this presentation as ‘a near thirty-minute exposition that is perhaps the best encapsulation of Malcolm X’s ultimate views on race, American politics and what can only be called universal human rights.’ …”
Standing Tall: Malcolm X’s Speech at the Oxford Union Debate (Video)
Malcolm X: Oxford Union Debate (December 3, 1964)
1964: Malcolm X Evokes Shakespeare at The Oxford Union
YouTube: Malclom X Speech at Oxford University

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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