BY WALTER OPINDE
On this date, 28th June, 1964, Malcolm X announced the founding of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. He believed that African-Americans should not have to contend with racism. Malcolm X thought that Black people throughout all of America had been attempting to form alliances with each other and with white Americans for much time, without much success. Malcolm X reasoned that African-Americans would form stronger bonds with each other and with black people in Africa, with “people who look something like we do,” as he put it, than they would with any white Americans. Therefore, he created the Organization of Afro-American Unity to allow all Africans across the world to collaborate in order to end racism.
Malcolm X’s call for African-Americans to defend themselves was reasonable but seemed too vague in drawing the line between defense and aggression. He called for equality in armament between white and black people, which, once achieved, would reduce violence. However, this could encourage black people to aggressively obtain means of self-defense. Nonetheless, Malcolm X failed to clarify how he wanted the black people to arm themselves: non-violently, or by any means necessary?
The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) was thereby a Pan-Africanist organization. The OAAU was modeled on the Organization of African Unity, which had impressed Malcolm X during his visit to Africa in April and May 1964. The purpose of the OAAU was to fight for the human rights of African-Americans and promote cooperation among Africans and people of African descent in America.
Malcolm X announced the establishment of the OAAU at a public meeting in New York’s Audubon Ballroom on 28th June, 1964. He had written the group’s charter with John Henrik Clarke, Albert Cleage, Jesse Gray, and Gloria Richardson, among others. In a memo dated 2nd July, 1964, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described the nascent OAAU as a threat to the national security of the United States.
The OAAU pushed for black control of every aspect of the black community. At the founding rally, Malcolm X stated that the organization’s principal concern was the human rights of blacks, but that it would also focus on voter registration, school boycotts, rent strikes, housing rehabilitation, and social programs for addicts, unwed mothers, and troubled children. Malcolm X saw the OAAU as a way of “un-brainwashing” black people, ridding them of the lies they had been told about themselves and their culture.
On 17th July, 1964, Malcolm X was welcomed to the second meeting of the Organization of African Unity in Cairo as a representative of the OAAU. When a reporter asked whether white people could join the OAAU, Malcolm X said, “Definitely not.” Then he added, “If John Brown were still alive, we might accept him.”
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