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Malcolm X’s Break with Nation of Islam Analyzed by Civil Rights Leaders

Mar. 14, 1964 - Leaders of the civil rights movement in the North and South are weighing the significance of the decision last week by Malcolm X, the former Black Muslim leader, to start his own Negro nationalist political movement.

Some see Mr. X’s entry into the broader field of civil rights as a prelude to a bloody summer. Mr. X, who has advised Negroes to purchase weapons for self-defense, has predicted an increase in racial violence for the coming warm months.

Bayard Rustin, who coordinated the March on Washington last summer as well as other demonstrations, said: “There are many elements in the Negro community — among the working class and intellectuals — who, out of the frustration of the current situation, have been deeply attracted to Malcolm’s analysis but who rejected his synthesis. They’re not interested in the separate state idea or in the back-to-Africa thing or in Islam. But they do accept Malcolm’s analysis of the evils being practiced on the Negro people.”

The Rev. Richard Hildebrand, a Negro leader in New York in the effort for equal employment opportunity, said: “I welcome anybody who is going to help the civil rights struggle, but I cannot condone violence. Malcolm X is a brilliant person. I have a feeling we can work together as long as we can contain that philosophy of violence.”

The Rev. Robert Kinloch, another New York leader, called Mr. X’s position ridiculous. “He’s still preaching the same philosophy under a new brand name,” Mr. Kinloch said.

Some members of the civil rights movement predicted that a few Negro activists will use Malcolm X’s proposals as a means of threatening whites.

“It’s the idea of using a man like this to frighten the people into giving us what we want,” one well-known leader said privately. “A lot of people are saying we should let Malcolm scare the masses and [James] Baldwin scare the intellectuals and Adam [Clayton Powell] scare the politicians.”

Another leader, Whitney Young Jr. of the National Urban League, believes that Malcolm X’s strength is artificial — that it is created on paper and videotape by the press. “I think a great deal of the visibility which Malcolm receives from the media is due to an unconscious sympathy on the part of many reporters and others with the notion of separation,” he said.


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