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Malcolm X Comments on Civil Rights Bill

Mar. 26, 1964 - Malcolm X, former spokesman for the Nation of Islam and now Black Nationalist leader, said today in Washington that he wanted the U.S. Senate to pass the civil rights bill but forecast that enforcing its provisions would lead to violence.

Mr. X, who split recently with the leaders of the Black Muslim religious movement and set up his own militant group, was in the Senate gallery today during parts of the debate on the measure. On and off during the day, he held impromptu press conferences in the corridors.

Mr. X said he wanted the Senate to pass the House bill “exactly as it is, with no changes.” But, he said, the bill would not solve the Negro problem “because you can’t legislate good will — that comes about only by education.” He predicted that a new Negro march on Washington “won’t be so orderly” as the one last August.

Dr. Martin Luther King, in a news conference at the Capitol, said that steps would be taken if Southern Senators engaged in a determined filibuster of the civil rights bill. Civil rights organizations are prepared to wage a campaign of “direct action” in Washington and around the country “to dramatize the abuse of the legislative process,” he said.

He said that a month of debate was reasonable. But if the debate goes beyond the first week in May, the program of direct action will go into effect, he said.

Asked if the Negro leaders contemplated demonstrations at the Capitol, Dr. King replied: “At this point, I would not say that civil disobedience would become necessary. But it could become necessary if Southern Senators are so determined that we must lift the issue to the surface of the consciousness of the nation.”

Malcolm X sat silently on a sofa in the back of the walnut-and-marble conference room while Dr. King talked to reporters. When the meeting ended, the two leaders talked quietly, then left the conference room together.


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