Malcolm X made memorable visit to Selma in 1965

Published 10:05 am Friday, March 1, 2024

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Civil Rights legend Malcolm X made a memorable visit to Selma in 1965.

Malcolm X’s only appearance to Selma was chronicled both in the movie “Selma” and John Lewis’ biography, “In Search of the Beloved Community,” written by author Raymond Arsenault.  

On Feb. 2, 1965, Malcolm X made a brief speech at Historic Brown Chapel AME Church and held a press conference, according to Lewis’ biography. Lewis noted that Malcolm X changed from his days as Nation of Islam leader, in which he often criticized Martin Luther King’s quest to end racial injustice in the south.

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At the time, King and Lewis were in a Selma jail for protesting. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, attended the rally.

Malcolm X strongly advised Alabama officials to give King what he wants fast or face the consequences. 

“The white people should thank Dr. King for holding people in check for there are others who do not believe in these measures,” Malcolm said in the Feb. 4, 1965 issue of The Selma Times-Journal. “I’m not intending to try to stir you up and make you do something you would have done anyway.”

The “Selma” movie, written by Paul Redd and Ava Duvernay, perfectly displayed the tension between King and Malcolm X through Coretta Scott King’s character. She visited her husband in jail, informing him of Malcolm X’s visit. King was resistant at first, remembering what Malcolm X called him in the past, but eventually came around. 

Also portrayed strongly was the reaction of then-Alabama Governor George Wallace when Malcolm X came to Selma under his nose. Imagine if the two civil rights legends had worked together from the start. 

Seventeen days later after visiting Selma, King was assassinated. 

During my high school and college days writing research papers on Malcolm X, I read that the trip to Mecca changed the man born as Malcolm Little and opened him up for interracial assistance.

Because of the movies’ historical inaccuracies, I never watched “One Night in Miami.” The script took place in 1964, where Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke and Malcolm X, sit in a hotel room. Clay had just won the world heavyweight title and Malcolm X inspired Cooke to write the song, “A Change is gonna come.”

I have three problems with the movie, One, no one mentioned King. How could you not mention King during that time? 

Two, Cooke was inspired by King’s “I have a dream speech” in 1963, not by Malcolm X. At least John Lewis’ autobiography and “Selma” movie got things right on Malcolm X coming to Selma.