The Detroit Speeches of Malcolm X are special for several
was a Michigan home-boy, spending many of his formative years in
the Lansing - Detroit area. He always had family there,
especially his older brother Wilfred. See
Detroit was a great center of industrial production, and a hot
spot of industrial decline. Radicals of all sorts
congregated in Detroit to organize a workers movement.
Black community was militant as well and had a long history of
Black nationalist radicalism. The NAACP chapter has been one
of the largest and most militant chapters, and activists from
Detroit have joined every trend of militancy over the last
speeches were each given to a key audience, part of the main
audience for Malcolm’s leadership, hence he was on his “A” game
whenever his spoke there. He was speaking to mentors, peers,
He gave three key speeches that have been well documented:
The “Message to the Grass Roots” laid down
his basic ideological framework.
The “Ballot or the Bullet” outlined his
strategic view of Black liberation versus the racist US
|The “Final Message” focused on the key role
of African liberation in the struggle for world revolution.
One can approach these three speeches in three different ways:
Culture: listen to Malcolm X’s voice. He was a rhetorical
genius in talking Black, using the language of the people to
convey highly complex political analysis;
Philosophy: grasp the logic in his analysis. There is a deep
structure of philosophical logic to his thinking, a dialectics of
oppression and resistance.
Politics: simulate his style of fighting back, especially his take
on friends and enemies. He mastered the polemical style of
talking back, speaking truth to power.
This web site provides the text, voice, and a study guide for
these three speeches. Listen to his words. Come back
and read the texts while listening for a second time. Then,
when you want to get serious read and implement the study guide.
You may not like going to school, but if you’re interested in
Malcolm X and learning from him, its time to become a serious