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BAILEY: When John Lewis Met Brother Malcolm X in Kenya

In his book, Malcolm X: The FBI Files, Clayborne Carson wrote about an October 1964 first time meeting between Brother Malcolm and John Lewis while both were traveling in Africa. The goal of Lewis and his fellow civil rights warrior Donald Harris was to make African students more aware of what the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was doing in the ongoing war against white supremacy in the United States.

After they secured a meeting with Brother Malcolm, Carson recalls Lewis as saying “….He felt that the presence of SNCC in Africa was very important and that this was a significant and crucial aspect of the ‘human rights struggle’ that the American civil rights groups had too long neglected. He pointed out (and our experience bears him correct) that the African leaders and people are strongly behind the Freedom Movement in this country; that they are willing to do all they can to support, encourage and sustain the Movement, but they will not tolerate factionalism and support particular groups or organizations within the Movement as a whole. It was with this in mind that he formed his Organization of Afro-American Unity. Discussion also centered around Malcolm’s proposed plan to bring the case of the Afro-American before the General Assembly of the United Nations and hold the United States in violation of the Human Rights Charter. The question was at that time (and ultimately was evident) that support from the civil rights voices in this country was not forthcoming and the American black community was too plinted (sic) to attempt such a move without looking like (complete) asses and embarrassing (our) most valuable allies. We departed with Malcolm giving us some contacts and the hope that there would be a greater communication between the OAAU and SNCC.”

On February 21st 1965 the Sunday he was assassinated, Brother Malcolm told several of us who were backstage with him, that he had accepted an invitation to speak at a SNCC rally in Jackson, Mississippi during the upcoming week. I strongly believe that invitation resulted from his meeting with John Lewis in Kenya.

John Lewis, in the 1960s, was not an “American” hero as cited repeatedly by cable news hosts and their guests. He was an African American warrior who, in the 1960s, put his life on the line in the ongoing war against white supremacist terrorists; especially in the former Confederate states of America. During that time the lives of John Lewis and other warriors were as much in danger as those of soldiers who were fighting in the Vietnam War. That’s what we should teach our children.

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  1. Thank you for this article. I am re-enacting Fannie Lou Hamer for the Maryland Humanities Society. This meeting held in Africa was a pivotal event. There is very little documented about it. Few pictures I can find. I know who was there and who was not there. The results are evident. This subject deserves much more research.

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