Friday Photo History: A Letter from Malcolm X
The universe is dependent on opposites and contradictions. For every light there is equal dark; for every negative there is a positive. Without these opposites the universe and our world would not be as we know it. In the world of civil rights, there were two main extremes. Each of these positions were led by two of the most prominent African American civil rights advocates. On the side of civil disobedience, non-violence, and the call to end segregation was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On the side of harsher measures such as acceptance of violence when necessary for self-defense, powerful rhetoric, and racial separation was Malcolm X. Malcolm X was a complicated man who fought the harsh battle of segregation and racism that was present in America during his life with anger of his own. While MLK advocated peace and change over time, Malcolm X wanted to begin something new and sever the ties that had bound his people. In his later years, after his split with the Nation of Islam, he would disavow many of his earlier views.
In 1953 Malcolm X was named assistant minister of the Nation of Islam's Temple Number One in Detroit. It is unknown if this letter was from his time in the city. The typed portion of the letter is simply business and seems to lay out the details of a trip. The handwritten part is much more representative of Malcolm X's views at the time and shed a little light on this man's way of handling his business in the Nation of Islam. After separating from the Nation, Malcolm X was assassinated by three members of the Nation of Islam in New York City as he was making a speech. Even though Martin Luther King and Malcolm X may have held different views, the fates of two of the twentieth century's most influential people were tragically intertwined.
Date: 1952-1965. Photograph courtesy of the Collections and Exhibitions department of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (http://chwmuseum.org). Research, caption and scanning by Derek Thomas Sojda. Biographical Information on Malcolm X provided by Biography.com. For more information please contact the Louise Lovett Wright Library and Robert L. Hurst Research Center at (313) 494-5840 or via email at
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