Malcolm X: Long-lost recording unearthed at Brown University

A 50-year-old recording of civil rights leader Malcolm X delivering an address to a mostly white audience at Brown University has been rediscovered by an undergraduate who came upon it at the university’s archives, according to The Associated Press.

Few recordings prior to 1962 exist of Malcolm X, the Muslim convert who differed from other civil rights leaders in arguing more for the social and economic emancipation of blacks in America, even for black supremacy, than for integration and acceptance.

He was assassinated in 1965, a year after leaving the Nation of Islam.

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Delivered four years prior to his death, the address shows a Malcolm X developing a theme that would evolve in his thinking over time. Integration would not undo the atrophy that oppression had brought to black people in America, he told the crowd of 800, according to the AP.

Oppression “has made the 20 million black people in this country a dead people. Dead economically, dead mentally, dead spiritually. Dead morally and otherwise. Integration will not bring a man back from the grave,” the AP quoted Malcolm X as saying.

According to the AP, the story of the recording’s discovery is almost as intriguing as its contents. Malcolm X had come to Brown after learning of a student newspaper article by Katherine Pierce in The Brown Daily Herald, which was then edited by Richard Holbrooke, the future US diplomat.

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According to the AP, Malcolm X had by then already been banned from the campuses of the University of California-Berkeley and Queens College in New York.

The recording was discovered by Brown student Malcolm Burnley in the university archives after he found a reference to it in a student newspaper, according to AP.

“No one had listened to this in 50 years,” Burnley was quoted as telling the AP. “There aren’t many recordings of him before 1962. And this is a unique speech – it’s not like others he had given before.”

The AP also reported last week that thousands of pages of recently unearthed documents concerning Malcom X’s youth were recently purchased by an independent collector and the late civil rights leader’s foundation.

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