Malcolm X met with KKK leaders to discuss the creation of a black state, new book claims

Malcolm X held a meeting in Atlanta with the Ku Klux Klan to discuss their shared rejection of integration, and the Nation of Islam’s hope of a black-only state, according to a new book

Harriet Alexander
Monday 12 October 2020 23:13 BST
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Malcolm X met with KKK leaders in the 1950s, a new book claims
Malcolm X met with KKK leaders in the 1950s, a new book claims

Malcolm X met with Ku Klux Klan leaders to discuss the formation of a separate black-only state, according to a book to be published at the end of this month.

Jeremiah Shabazz, a former roommate of Malcolm X and a minister in the Nation of Islam, revealed that the Klan meeting was held at his home in Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1950s.

Malcolm X, on behalf of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, sought the white supremacist terrorist group’s help in acquiring a “separate state” for black Americans opposed to integration.

The Nation of Islam approached the KKK after the landmark 1954 Brown versus Board of Education judgment, which ruled against school segregation.

The Nation opposed integration, and disagreed with civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King.

Their opposition put them on the same side as the KKK, and so a meeting was set up to see if any common ground could be found.

Mr Shabazz, in a January 1961 interview, unearthed by the late journalist Les Payne and his daughter Tamara Payne, described the meeting.

Klansmen arrived in the minister’s black Atlanta neighbourhood in a ten-car motorcade, Mr Shabazz recalled.

A Klansman identified as WS Fellows decided, as a way of making small talk to put everyone at ease, to begin the meeting by attacking Jewish people, who he assumed were mutually disliked.

According to a copy of the Paynes’ book, obtained by The Times, the Klansman boasted that he had been present in 1915 at the lynching of Leo Frank, a young Jewish man who was convicted on flimsy evidence of raping and murdering a 13-year-old girl. 

Mr Frank was posthumously pardoned in 1986. 

“You should have seen that little Jew’s eyes bulge when we pulled that rope,” Mr Shabazz recalled Fellows saying.

Malcolm X then made his case for “complete separation of the races”, arguing that they wanted to acquire land to call their own instead of following a path of integration.

Fellows replied: “Whatever you [. . .] want, it’s fine. Call it whatever you like. As long as you stay over there and you’re glad to be black, good.”

The meeting was infiltrated by an FBI informant in the Klan, the paper says. Fellows then suggested that Nation of Islam members could be “partners” of the Klan.

Malcolm X subsequently returned north to recount the meeting to Muhammad, who was based in Chicago.

It is unclear how far the discussions went.

Malcolm X in the 1960s began to disagree with Muhammad’s views, and eventually disavowed him, taking his supporters with him.

Throughout 1964, his conflict with the Nation of Islam intensified, and he was repeatedly sent death threats for turning on Muhammad and supporting Martin Luther King instead. 

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated in New York. 

Three Nation members were charged with the murder and given indeterminate life sentences, although questions remain to this day as to who was behind the murder. 

Martine Luther King Jr was shot and killed in 1968. Mr Shabazz died in 1998.

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X, written by the Paynes and based on 30 years of research, is out on 20 October.

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