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This Day is Resistance History: Malcolm X and the creation of the Organization of Afro-American Unity

June 28, 2012

Forty-Eight years ago today, Malcolm X gave the first speech upon the founding of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), the entity he co-founded after leaving the Nation of Islam.

Malcolm states in his speech that the OAAU is modeled on the Organization of African Unity, the coalition of post-colonial African nations that sought to become independent of European and US interests.

The OAAU presented its charter that day, which lays out both their principles and goals as a new organization. Here is how the charter begins:

We, Afro-Americans, people who originated in Africa and now reside in America, speak out against the slavery and oppression inflicted upon us by this racist power structure. We offer to downtrodden Afro-American people courses of action that will conquer oppression, relieve suffering, and convert meaningless struggle into meaningful action.

It was clear that the OAAU was calling for systemic change and not just reformist measures that were motivated by desegregation. This call for more radical change within the Black community is further reflected in the organization’s basic aims & objectives.

Self-determination

We assert that we Afro-Americans have the right to direct and control our lives, our history, and our future rather than to have our destinies determined by American racists, we are determined to rediscover our true African culture, which was crushed and hidden for over four hundred years in order to enslave us and keep us enslaved up to today…

We, Afro-Americans — enslaved, oppressed, and denied by a society that proclaims itself the citadel of democracy, are determined to rediscover our history, promote the talents that are suppressed by our racist enslavers, renew the culture that was crushed by a slave government and thereby — to again become a free people.

National unity

Sincerely believing that the future of Afro-Americans is dependent upon our ability to unite our ideas, skills, organizations, and institutions…

We, the Organization of Afro-American Unity pledge to join hands and hearts with all people of African origin in a grand alliance by forgetting all the differences that the power structure has created to keep us divided and enslaved. We further pledge to strengthen our common bond and strive toward one goal: freedom from oppression.

Despite the more radical platform, the OAAU and Malcolm also made it clear they wanted to work with any and all Black organizations that were truly committed to racial and economic justice.

At the founding meeting, Malcolm X stressed the importance of escaping terms like “negro,” “integration,” or “emancipation,” insisting that such language was inherently pejorative and antithetical to the ideology of the OAAU.  The OAAU called for African American run institutions within the black community as well as increased participation in mainstream politics.  In order to keep the OAAU strictly in African American hands, Malcolm X insisted that there be no monetary donations from non-African sources. The organization also refused membership to whites.

The OAAU was targeted by the FBI and its counter-intelligence program known as COINTELPRO. The FBI was concerned about the creation of the OAAU and its possible alliance with other radical groups in the country that were calling for systemic change.

The OAAU had created chapters all across the country during their short life spam, which was only a year, since the group loss many members after Malcolm was assassinated in February of 1965, just 8 months after the organization’s founding.

For more information on the OAAU, we recommend reading William Sales book, From Civil Rights to Black Liberation: Malcolm X and the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which you can read online. Here is also a video excerpt from Malcolm’s speech at the OAAU on June 28, 1964.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 28, 2012 4:48 pm

    Reblogged this on The Wobbly Goblin.

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