Interview with Peter Bailey

Peter, you're talking summer 1962 when you first moved and saw, um, Harlem and Malcolm for the first time. Can you give us your reactions?


Well I had move to Harlem in the summer of 1962 and we moved in on a Friday. So that Saturday morning instead of, my roommate, and I instead of, ah, unpacking, we decided to walk, through Harlem. Living right off of Lenox Avenue which is Harlem's main drag, so we walked down to 100 and, we walked down. We got to 116th Street and Lenox Avenue and saw a crowd gathering. And we asked what was going on and they said that Malcolm X was going to speak. Now at the time we had heard of Malcolm but we had only heard the negative things that you hear from reading the newspapers. So we didn't know him. So we decided to stay and listen to what he had to say and he spoke for about almost two hours and, ah, we listened and, he began to, my opinion was, you could never listen to him and be the same again. If you disagreed with every single thing he was saying, he still forced you to deal with certain things and think about certain things that you had been kind of not really dealing with and thinking about before. So we became totally fascinated and I found myself personally, ah, being intellectually resisting what he was saying because I had come out of the integrationist wing of the movement. And, ah, but emotionally I was very, very pulled by his analysis of the system. I had never heard the system, ah, analyzed and presented in that way before. It made sense to me. It really made sense, and, and I had to. I was resisting it intellectually but emotionally I was very pulled toward it. We found out that he was going to be speaking there every Saturday afternoon. So we made it definitely our purpose, we were going to be back there the following Saturday. And we were. And we began to listen and every time he would mention an article, magazine, or book, we would go and try and find that article and magazine and book to read. Ah, it was in every sense of the word, for me, ah, it was a University of the Streets. You know that term is kind of overused but I think literally, ah, it was a University of the Streets. Since that we were learning. It was an learning experience in the absolute, most, ah, most, the best sense of that term learning. And for about five or six Saturdays I felt as though I learned about how, ah, the system worked in this country than I had learned in all the years, you know, prior to that, just by listening to his analysis. So to me it was, ah, it was the beginning of my higher education though I had already had two years of college by the time this happened. But to me that was the beginning of my higher education.