In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected president of the United States. This accomplishment was seen as a promising administration. During the campaign he had promised to lead the country down the right path with the civil rights movement.
This campaign promise had brought hope to many African-Americans throughout the nation. Ever since Lincoln, African-Americans have tended to side with the democrats and this year was no different. The Kennedy administration had noticed that the key to the presidency was partially the civil rights issue. While many citizens were on Kennedy's side, he owned his share of opposition.Malcolm X differed on the common view of the President and observed that the civil rights movement wasn't happening in the speed Kennedy pledged. Malcolm X possessed other reasons for his dislike of John F.
Kennedy and his brothers, especially Robert. The Kennedy government stood for racial liberalism and Malcolm X argued their true intentions for the civil rights movement weren't in the best interest of the black population. This tension streamed both ways. John Kennedy and the Federal Bureau of Investigation felt that Malcolm had become a threat to national security.James Baldwin has written essays that have included the repeated attacks on the white liberal and supports Malcolm in many of his theories and actions.
Malcolm X had been a very influential speaker in his day and delivered speeches to numerous crowds Kennedy developed a fear of what Malcolm could do to the country and Malcolm developed a hatred for the whole Kennedy administration. He felt that the government consisted of racial liberals and Malcolm did not like the "liberal" side of the politicians. In fact he held them in great contempt.Malcolm realized that Kennedy would never give him an opportunity to take part in the talks with other Black leaders. Malcolm searched for opponents to debate in the race issue and only found one, James Farmer.
Farmer was a great leader during the Civil Rights Movement. He was a founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The purpose of CORE at the time was " to achieve racial integration in public accommodations through direct but nonviolent actions," (Jenkins 216). This description of Farmer displays the fact that he is on the same side as Baldwin, not Malcolm.Like Baldwin, Farmer did have respect for Malcolm and even agreed with some of his ideals.
Farmer was an excellent public speaker and debater. As Jenkins observes, "Malcolm, normally the attacker and critic, was thus put on the defensive for the first time in his career as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam, and Farmer became the only integrationist ever to make Malcolm appear unsure of himself and his message in public" (216-217). This encounter had forced Malcolm to realize that he had respect for a civil rights leader.Malcolm would not have thought this to be possible as he had much contempt for the leaders claiming they are only adhering to the white policy.
Farmer and Malcolm had become friends after that famous debate up until Farmer divorced his black wife to marry a white woman. "As Malcolm put it, Farmer was now nearly white" (Jenkins 217). Malcolm now saw Farmer as being no different that whites (Jenkins 217). The white side wasn't Malcolm's side so he had lost much of the respect for Farmer that he once held. Malcolm now held Farmer in contempt with all the other leaders of the civil rights movement.
These leaders seemed to be on Kennedy's side and that was not acceptable to Malcolm. He observed Kennedy in a different light than many other African-Americans. The majority of the black community felt that the Kennedy administration would finally put an end to the race issue still going strong in America. Why would they believe a white man would do this for them? Well, Kennedy promised them he would help to douse the fire of racism. Promises are only that, as anyone knows. During his presidency, he had lost a large amount of supporters.
Many Northern liberals and Southern conservatives also felt Kennedy was not keeping his campaign guarantees. "His failure to seek new legislative authority along the lines pledged in the 1960 Democratic platform constituted a breach of faith. His use of existing authority to attack segregation and discrimination was an omen of worse things to come" (Congressional Quarterly 81). This article was printed in 1961 showing the reader how people felt in the beginning of Kennedy's term. Word had spread that Kennedy wasn't doing anything to keep his campaign promises on civil rights and Malcolm criticized him for this extensively.
One specific incident Malcolm called Kennedy on was the Birmingham bombings in May of 1963. Handler reported "Malcolm X attacked President Kennedy today for the manner in which he has dealt with the Birmingham crisis and with race relations in general" (14). Malcolm attacked Kennedy because fighting had been going on for three weeks before Kennedy decided it was bad enough for government intervention. Even worse, as Baldwin suggested, "the only reason the government had put federal troops in Alabama was because a white man had been stabbed" (qtd.
in Schlesinger 962-963).Many African-Americans had been killed and much property was destroyed and Kennedy didn't send the troops then but decided they were needed when the first white man had been hurt. This supports Malcolm's theory that Kennedy does not really care for the well being of the black community only the possible votes they hold. According to Handler, "President Kennedy did not send troops to Alabama when dogs were biting black babies. He waited three weeks until the situation had exploded. He then sent troops after the Negroes had demonstrated their ability to defend themselves" (14).
This statement correlates his argument with that of Baldwin. Both men were upset by the fact that the President of our nation could let this happen after promising actions like these would end. Malcolm felt that Kennedy "didn't send in the troops because it was the right thing to do, but because the world is watching this country" (qtd. in Handler 14). This interview he gave to the New York Times is a powerful one in finding out the feelings Malcolm had for John Kennedy.
Malcolm did not victimize Kennedy at all.His term in office had lost supporters due to his failure to keep campaign promises. The White House announced that the President no longer considered new civil rights legislation to be necessary in 1961" (Congressional Quarterly 81). In 1961, Kennedy had just begun his presidency and already was dismissing one of his promises that helped him acquire the Commander in Chief position. Malcolm wasn't surprised at Kennedy's failure because he couldn't trust anything from a white man's mouth.
Malcolm had been known to tell white men to go back to hell, as he thought they were all "white devils". Baldwin and Malcolm shared some of the same views on President Kennedy.According to Schlesinger, Baldwin "felt that Kennedy was just unable to understand the sense of urgency of the Negro people- and this once again confirmed his thesis about the white man" (963). Baldwin explains part of his thesis in "White Man's Guilt" by stating that, "The history of white people has led them to a fearful, baffling place where they have begun to lose touch with reality- to lose touch, that is, with themselves- and where they certainly are not truly happy, for they know they are not truly safe" (724).Kennedy had lost touch with reality when it came to the African- American situation. He had not fully understood what needed to be done because he was not part of the issue.
Kennedy feared Malcolm because he felt that he wasn't safe from Malcolm's power. Malcolm never exhibited a violent side yet many feared his leadership power as he had many followers. JFK had heard Malcolm use the term "white devil" extensively and made him think that maybe one day Malcolm would do something violent. Kennedy wanted to keep tabs on Malcolm in fear of a powerful, overwhelming African-American movement occurring.Baldwin agreed with Malcolm in many of his beliefs and theories, and wrote that "I, in any case, certainly refuse to be put in the position of denying the truth of Malcolm's statements simply because I disagree with his conclusions, or in order to pacify the liberal conscience" ("Down at Cross" 320).
Baldwin has written much on the topic of the civil rights leaders during the sixties and even had a favorite who shared some of his ideals. Jenkins writes that "Baldwin favored the approach of Malcolm X, by saying that Malcolm's approach appeared more dangerous because it was more effective" (89).Baldwin witnessed the gentle side of Malcolm and found it very endearing. Malcolm had been in a debate on a radio station with a boy about the Civil Rights Movement. This event caused Baldwin to see the true Malcolm as he states in "To Be Baptized", "I will never forget Malcolm and that child facing each other, and Malcolm's extraordinary gentleness. And that's the truth about Malcolm: he was one of the gentlest people I have ever met" (411).
The encounter between Malcolm and this child happened on a radio program which James Baldwin offered to moderate in fear of Malcolm tearing the kid to pieces with his debating style.Everyone involved with the program experienced shock at the way Malcolm X handled the debate ("Baptized" 410). Malcolm had forced the child to think about his position and reasons for holding it. The child had seemed to appreciate this gift from Malcolm and it is thought that the child had become an influential leader in the civil rights movement.
Baldwin also shares this gentleness with Malcolm as he shows in "Down At The Cross": "I love a few people and they love me and some of them are white, and isn't love more important than color? " (327).This quote shows Baldwin's gentle side because he holds love above everything else including color. J. Edgar Hoover feared all civil rights leaders and felt they all posed threats.
He judged that Martin Luther King, Jr. posed the biggest threat, however he put a larger surveillance on Malcolm. Hoover tried many schemes to put Malcolm X on trial (Jenkins 278). The Justice Department heard Hoover's pleas many times and told him that he needed more evidence to support his charge.
The Director of the FBI should know that without his superiors telling him. His efforts expressed his contempt for Malcolm and the Nation of Islam's power.Malcolm could say whatever he wanted to about the government and Hoover could not touch him. The charge the FBI wanted to pursue was the violation of the Smith Act, which "makes it illegal to teach or advocate ideas calling for the overthrow of the federal government" (Jenkins 278). Malcolm had suggested a separation of black and white America, but never really advocated the overthrow of the government. His proposals called for a second government.
Hoover was disappointed with Robert Kennedy's decision not to charge Malcolm. Hoover had played a major part in the conviction and deportation of Marcus Garvey.Garvey was a black nationalist that Malcolm "respected for his courage and ideas," (Jenkins 237). Malcolm's father had been a "Garveyite" and worked to spread the word of Marcus Garvey. Malcolm was filled with pride whenever he talked about his visits with his father while doing work for Garvey (Jenkins 236). Why should Malcolm's case be any different for the FBI? Hoover had been a widely known racist and had "an intense hostility to all forms of black American militancy," (Jenkins 221).
His racist attitude was always apparent in his work and whom he chose to put on surveillance.Hoover even gained informants who placed themselves in prominent locations around Malcolm including one becoming Malcolm's best friend. When Malcolm split from the Nation of Islam, the FBI thought it would be an opportune time to request Malcolm's help in their case against Elijah Muhammad and the Nation. The agents visited Malcolm's house and found a very "uncooperative" Malcolm.
The agents were white and Malcolm had viewed all white men as devils. He had told them to go back to hell after he denied their call for help in becoming an informant. In the FBI report, the officers had written that the "subject" was "uncooperative" (Evanzz 37).Why should he help the FBI? He has found no protection from them and has seen the situation in Birmingham left unprotected as well. Malcolm felt that the government had no intentions of protecting the African-American population. All the government seemed to do was jail those who spoke out for their rights.
In the debate earlier mentioned with the boy, Malcolm asked the boy why he had to fight for rights afforded to American citizens if he was in fact an American citizen. The boy said the answer was difficult and complicated. Malcolm, as much as he denies his American side, believes in many of the constitutional rights afforded all citizens.He feels that he should be able to speak freely without being detained. Malcolm also utilizes the right of assembly and the freedom of speech by speaking at mosques and rallies for the NOI. Baldwin employs the freedom of speech through his writing.
Many people read Baldwin's essays and follow his thoughts and beliefs. J. Edgar Hoover represents yet another perspective on America and its citizens. He believes that the old ways are better and despises the fact that African- Americans have these liberties that the white men maintain.The FBI and Hoover, if there really is a distinction between the two at the time, believed that Malcolm could be the cause of the country's downfall by fighting for these rights for his people and causing riots on the way. Hoover has been shown to be afraid of King and Malcolm X.
In many documents it has been said that Hoover holds a racist attitude. This belief has triggered many people to think that maybe the government had played a role in the assassination of Malcolm. After all, his bodyguard and friend was an informant!