Malcolm X Spoke in Grand Rapids in 1962


On February 12, 1962, Malcolm X spoke at Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids to an estimated crowd of 350 people. His lecture was part of the Great Speakers Lecture Series that Fountain Street has hosted for decades.

Before we look at the talk that Malcolm X gave at Fountain Street Church in February of 1962, it is important to put into context where Malcolm was in his own journey as a participant in the Black Freedom struggle.

Malcolm X was already beginning his evolution to a broader understanding of religion and politics. His impact on the Nation of Islam meant a significant growth in the number of temples being created across the country and a pronounced increase in membership.

Just days after speaking in Grand Rapids, Malcolm debated Bayard Rustin in Chicago on the topic, “Integration or Separation for the Negro?” So, one can see that Malcolm was still advocating against an integration into White society and pushing for more Black autonomy and independence.

In late 1962, the first rumors of Elijah Muhammad’s adultery began circulating, which was a devastating blow to how Malcolm viewed his leader.

However, he continued to speak at rallies and became more and more involved in demonstrations against police brutality and other forms of state violence. Malcolm also continued to be critical of the mainstream civil rights movement and the 1963 March on Washington.

In November of 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated and Malcolm made his famous statement about “Chickens coming home to roost,” which essentially meant that the violence that the US has perpetrated around the world and at home resulted in violence being done to them. This statement enraged Elijah Muhammad and he prohibited him from speaking in public from engaging in his ministry. Within three weeks of his being silenced by the Nation of Islam, Malcolm formed his own entities, the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) and Muslim Mosque Inc.

From that point on Malcolm’s evolution accelerated and he spoke at even more rallies and forums across the country and around the world. Malcolm became much more interested in international affairs and particularly in the anti-colonial movements throughout African, Asia and Latin America.

On February 21st, of 1965 Malcolm X was assassinated at an OAAU rally in the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, almost 3 years after he spoke in Grand Rapids.

Malcolm’s Fountain Street Church Lecture

The title of his talk at Fountain Street Church was “Segregation, Separation and Integration.” Fountain Street Church has an audio recording of the lecture, but we have been unable to allow them to let us listen to the lecture or share it with our readers. The  only record we have is from a February 18 article written about the lecture by a reporter named Kurt Luedtke, writing for the Grand Rapids Press.

The article is not very long and the headline reads, “Black Muslims’ ‘Malcolm X’ Brings Harsh Message Here.” Luedtke refers to the Nation of Islam as a “quasi-religious organization” in the early part of the article and continues throughout to engage in hostile language towards Minister Malcolm.

The reporter does note that this was the second time in six months that Malcolm had been in Grand Rapids to recruit in the Black community. The sub-heading of the article says,”Activities Alarm Leaders of Both Races.” However, nowhere in the article are any Black or White leaders cited, so the claim seems to be unfounded or at least unsubstantiated.

At the very end of the article, the reporter states, “In its exhortation of racial superiority, Black Muslimism has been compared to the German Third Reich.” Such a conclusion only further demonstrates the lack of understand of the reporter and it exposes the contempt he had with what Malcolm X had to say and what the Nation of Islam represented at the time.

We plan to continue to look for any evidence of the recruiting visits to Grand Rapids by Malcolm X in 1962 and if we are ever able to gain access to the audio recording of his lecture we intent to post it on this site.

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1 Response to Malcolm X Spoke in Grand Rapids in 1962

  1. Pingback: Booker T. Washington and White Paternalism in Grand Rapids in the early part of the 20th Century | Grand Rapids People's History Project

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