“Two Types Of Negroes”: Malcolm X Describes The Difference Between House & Field Negroes

3 Posted by - November 27, 2020 - LATEST POSTS

Malcolm describes the difference between the “house Negro” and the “field Negro.” Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. 23 January 1963.

Transcribed text from audio excerpt.

So you have two types of Negro. The old type and the new type. Most of you know the old type. When you read about him in history during slavery he was called “Uncle Tom.” He was the house Negro. And during slavery you had two Negroes. You had the house Negro and the field Negro.

The house Negro usually lived close to his master. He dressed like his master. He wore his master’s second-hand clothes. He ate food that his master left on the table. And he lived in his master’s house–probably in the basement or the attic–but he still lived in the master’s house.

So whenever that house Negro identified himself, he always identified himself in the same sense that his master identified himself. When his master said, “We have good food,” the house Negro would say, “Yes, we have plenty of good food.” “We” have plenty of good food. When the master said that “we have a fine home here,” the house Negro said, “Yes, we have a fine home here.” When the master would be sick, the house Negro identified himself so much with his master he’d say, “What’s the matter boss, we sick?” His master’s pain was his pain. And it hurt him more for his master to be sick than for him to be sick himself. When the house started burning down, that type of Negro would fight harder to put the master’s house out than the master himself would.

But then you had another Negro out in the field. The house Negro was in the minority. The masses–the field Negroes were the masses. They were in the majority. When the master got sick, they prayed that he’d die. [Laughter]

If his house caught on fire, they’d pray for a wind to come along and fan the breeze. If someone came to the house Negro and said, “Let’s go, let’s separate,” naturally that Uncle Tom would say, “Go where? What could I do without boss? Where would I live? How would I dress? Who would look out for me?” That’s the house Negro. But if you went to the field Negro and said, “Let’s go, let’s separate,” he wouldn’t even ask you where or how. He’d say, “Yes, let’s go.” And that one ended right there.

So now you have a twentieth-century-type of house Negro. A twentieth-century Uncle Tom. He’s just as much an Uncle Tom today as Uncle Tom was 100 and 200 years ago. Only he’s a modern Uncle Tom. That Uncle Tom wore a handkerchief around his head. This Uncle Tom wears a top hat. He’s sharp. He dresses just like you do. He speaks the same phraseology, the same language. He tries to speak it better than you do. He speaks with the same accents, same diction. And when you say, “your army,” he says, “our army.” He hasn’t got anybody to defend him, but anytime you say “we” he says “we.” “Our president,” “our government,” “our Senate,” “our congressmen,” “our this and our that.” And he hasn’t even got a seat in that “our” even at the end of the line. So this is the twentieth-century Negro. Whenever you say “you,” the personal pronoun in the singular or in the plural, he uses it right along with you. When you say you’re in trouble, he says, “Yes, we’re in trouble.”

But there’s another kind of Black man on the scene. If you say you’re in trouble, he says, “Yes, you’re in trouble.” [Laughter] He doesn’t identify himself with your plight whatsoever.

SOURCE: X, Malcolm. “The Race Problem.” African Students Association and NAACP Campus Chapter. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. 23 January 1963.

Source: Malcolm describes the difference between the “house Negro” and the “field Negro.”

5 Comments

  • Nina June 13, 2017 - 2:09 pm Reply

    I really love this article. It describes a group of colored people in my neck of da woods, called Muhlenberg County. It’s amazing that these type of ” Uncle Tom’s are genetically engineered for each generation. It’s an ongoing process to stay and honor ” Mr. Charlie ” aka Da Massa?!

  • JAmes November 27, 2020 - 10:35 am Reply

    That description of the House Negro reminds me of a modern day person. I wonder is that house negro was named Clarence???

  • Linda Tart November 27, 2020 - 11:47 am Reply

    It is ALWAYS refreshing to hear or read quotes from, Malcolm X. He was a leader and great statesman. A man truly ahead of his time. Most of the things he said then, is still applicable TODAY, however, the leaders of today, attempt to bury his legacy. You will ALWAYS hear them quote Martin, but never Malcolm. Why is that that? Because he always told the TRUTH? Is it because he was not afraid to address his oppressors? Was it because he supported a self help philosophy? (Whites, don’t like that, i.e. Black Wall Street.) Or was it because he was a fearless leader, that did not believe in turning the other cheek? What was it, that made the white man turn RED when he spoke? I am personally GRATEFUL, that he lived and brought the realities of life to the masses of Black people in the inner cities and showed them who their real enemy is.

    THE HARDEST JOB IN THE WORLD, IS BEING A BLACK MAN IN AMERICA.

    Malcolm X

  • Jonathanwest November 27, 2020 - 12:19 pm Reply

    ????THEN THERE’S THE MISDEMEANOR =&=DIGITAL .\° NIGGAR THE WHITE COLLAR TYPE WHO OWES YOU A° COURT○■DATE BECAUSE OF 》》》DEBT《《《 BUT CHOOSE ‘S TOO =LIE= IN PUBLIC TO MAKE AN 25~QUARTER BLOTTER????

  • Ted Langston-Chase November 28, 2020 - 1:21 pm Reply

    It is high time black Americans stop degrading one another with references that in realty were never ours, in truth they always belonged to and were used by slaveholders. Yes, there were types like the hateful character played by Samuel Jackson in Django Unchained. Malcom X was was a brilliant orator who needed to invigorate a constituency with a ‘hook’ …it is called strategy…all campaigns use them. To celebrate these strategies today and not realize what they are used for is a great mistake in today’s political climate. As enlightened black people we had better realize that in spite of Trump’s defeat, Trumpism has resuscitated the racialism we have always known is as American as Apple Pie…there was never a ‘post-racial America’ as proclaimed after Obama’s election. Perhaps Trumpism was dormant, overt racialism was NOT PC. Now it is…they can, at last, exhale. Yes we have always had “Mary Contraries” among us…who would take the opposite side just for the sake of it…and we know that subjugated groups have always had those among them who will side with oppressors, but today we need to treat those types among us with humanity…try to show them that they are still displaying signs of trauma of slavery and suppression. Am I astounded by black Trump supporters, yes, but I’d rather handhold them through an awakening than continue to degrade them which only further divides us. The upcoming decades are going to be critical…we will need every able bodied and quick minded soul among us to fend off what is coming. Biden cannot undo in 4 years what has always been popular in this country. We have a battle ahead of us…try to be kinder and treat one another and enlighten one another with the care that will be needed for the future.

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