November 10, 2015

'Message to the Grassroots' by Malcolm X

American Rhetoric published a list of the Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century. Malcolm X delivered Top Speech #91 in Detroit MI on November 10, 1963.

Below is audio clip and text of the speech known as 'Message to the Grassroots'.

I would like to make a few comments concerning the difference between the Black revolution and the Negro revolution. There's a difference. Are they both the same? And if they're not, what is the difference? What is the difference between a Black revolution and a Negro revolution? First, what is a revolution? Sometimes I'm inclined to believe that many of our people are using this word "revolution" loosely, without taking careful consideration [of] what this word actually means, and what its historic characteristics are. When you study the historic nature of revolutions, the motive of a revolution, the objective of a revolution, and the result of a revolution, and the methods used in a revolution, you may change words. You may devise another program. You may change your goal and you may change your mind.

Look at the American Revolution in 1776. That revolution was for what? For land. Why did they want land? Independence. How was it carried out? Bloodshed. Number one, it was ba
sed on land, the basis of independence. And the only way they could get it was bloodshed. The French Revolution -- what was it based on? The land-less against the landlord. What was it for? Land. How did they get it? Bloodshed. Was no love lost; was no compromise; was no negotiation. I'm telling you, you don't know what a revolution is. 'Cause when you find out what it is, you'll get back in the alley; you'll get out of the way. The Russian Revolution -- what was it based on? Land. The land-less against the landlord. How did they bring it about?Bloodshed. You haven't got a revolution that doesn't involve bloodshed. And you're afraid to bleed. I said, you're afraid to bleed.

[As] long as the white man sent you to Korea, you bled. He sent you to Germany, you bled. He sent you to the South Pacific to fight the Japanese, you bled. You bleed for white people. But when it comes time to seeing your own churches being bombed and little Black girls be murdered, you haven't got no blood. You bleed when the white man says bleed; you bite when the white man says bite; and you bark when the white man says bark. I hate to say this about us, but it's true. How are you going to be nonviolent in Mississippi, as violent as you were in Korea? How can you justify being nonviolent in Mississippi and Alabama, when your churches are being bombed, and your little girls are being murdered, and at the same time you're going to violent with Hitler, and Tojo, and somebody else that you don't even know?

If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it's wrong to be violent defending Black women and Black children and Black babies and Black men, then it's wrong for America to draft us and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.

Amazing to hear words that were spoken 51 years ago by Malcolm X. What are your thoughts as you listen or read his words?


calle said...


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Anonymous said...

OM Gosh...just lost an entire - um, well thought out comment as I was forced to sign into Wordpress... can't redo...I'll sum up with a thank you!
Oh...and Am Rhetoric doesn't include Frederick Douglas' July 4th speech. That's a miss, wonder what was the criteria?
Will share, thanks.

Unknown said...

Julette - We'll get your full comment next time (smile). They didn't have the Frederick Douglass speech on their list. I'm going to share other speeches over the coming days. It is good to hear the powerful words from gifted orators. Our nation missed such oratory over the 8-years of the Bush administration...

Anonymous said...


Malcolm X is one of my all-time heroes. Like a lot of folks, my reading of his autobiography when I was just 15 changed my life.

This is one of his greatest speeches. And I believe the one constant throughout all of his better speeches is that black people will not be free until they look out for their own interests and don't entrust those interests to others. And that won't happen until black folks think independently. Do we think more independently now than when Malcolm was here...? I'm not so sure.

Unknown said...

Keith - One beauty of owning our own blog is that we can speak truth as we see it. Hopefully over time we provide independent thought for ourselves and our peeps. Anyhow, that is what I hope.

Right now, I hope that many of the young peeps in our community that never heard Malcolm X will have a chance to listen or read to the original thoughts of this powerful brotha...

clnmike said...

Still holds weight even today in "post racial" America.

Unknown said...

Mike - The classics are always right on time. I hope that many of our younger villagers have a chance to learn more about Malcolm X thru this post and by reading his autobiography...


Hey Wayne,

Thanks for sharing this!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Unknown said...

Lisa - I'm glad that you enjoyed this blog post. I have some other speeches that I want to post. Just need to make the time to get 'er done!

Reggie said...

Some words are timeless.