Malcolm X On Reparations: Our Wages Were Stolen, This Is How America Got Rich

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Written by Ann Brown

Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam called for reparations a long time before the current crop of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

Back in 1963, Malcolm X presented the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammed’s call for reparations while speaking at Michigan State University.

MALCOlM X
In this Feb. 26, 1961 file photo, Elijah Muhammad, founder and head of the Nation of Islam, right, introduces Malcolm X in Chicago. A Smithsonian Channel series, “The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X,” examining the life of civil right leader Malcolm X, follows the advocate’s changing philosophy using his own words as a Nation of Islam surrogate to a figure seeking to build coalitions during the tumultuous 1960s civil rights era. (AP Photo/Paul Cannon, File)

First, he called for Black Americans to be able to go back to Africa. Malcolm X said: “Number one, what Mr. Muhammad says is this, that every effort on the part of the government up till now to solve this problem by bringing about a just, equitable situation between whites and Blacks mixed up together here in this house has failed. Has failed absolutely. So he says that since you can’t give the Negro justice in your house, let us leave this house and go back home.”

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But being that it might not be possible for a mass relocation to Africa, the Nation had another proposal for the U.S. government. “Give us part of this country and let us live in that part,” said Malcolm X. “He says that in this section that will be set aside for Black people, that the government should give us everything we need to start our own civilization. They should give us everything we need to exist for the next twenty-five years. And when you stop and consider the–you shouldn’t be shocked, you give Latin America $20 billion and they never fought for this country. They never worked for this country. You send billions of dollars to Poland and to Hungary, they’re Communist countries, they never contributed anything here.”

Besides land, back wages for free, enslaved labor is due to the descendants of slave felt Muhammad. 

Malcolm X explained: “This is what you should realize. The greatest contribution to this country was that which was contributed by the Black man. If I take the wages, just a moment, if I take the wages of everyone here, individually it means nothing, but collectively all of the earning power or wages that you earned in one week would make me wealthy. And if I could collect it for a year, I’d be rich beyond dreams. Now, when you see this, and then you stop and consider the wages that were kept back from millions of Black people, not for one year but for 310 years, you’ll see how this country got so rich so fast.”

Malcolm X thoughts were further explained in his posthumously published book, “By Any Means Necessary.” 

If you are the son of a man who had a wealthy estate and you inherit your father’s estate, you have to pay off the debts that your father incurred before he died. The only reason that the present generation of white Americans are in a position of economic strength…is because their fathers worked our fathers for over 400 years with no pay…We were sold from plantation to plantation like you sell a horse, or a cow, or a chicken, or a bushel of wheat…. All that money…is what gives the present generation of American Whites the ability to walk around the earth with their chest out…like they have some kind of economic ingenuity. Your father isn’t here to pay. My father isn’t here to collect. But I’m here to collect and you’re here to pay,” he wrote.