Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam called for reparations a long time before the current crop of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.
In 1963, Malcolm X spoke at Michigan State University, presenting the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammed’s call for reparations.
First, he called for Black Americans to be able to go back to Africa. “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.”
But because a mass relocation to Africa was not possible, the Nation had another proposal for the U.S. government. “Give us part of this country and let us live in that part,” Malcolm X said. “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, Muhammad felt that back wages for slave labor were due to the descendants of slaves.
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 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.”
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