Interview with Ossie Davis

You were telling me about this meeting and I asked you, you do you recall an exchange between one of the, if you will, mainline civil rights leaders and Malcolm X.


Well, this exchange was between Lorraine Hansberry and Malcolm X. She, of course, was not a main line civil rights leader but she did have a bone to pick with brother Malcolm and she picked it well. Lorraine was married to Bob Nemiroff who's White and Malcolm had made some very--some statements about Blacks marrying Whites, you know, that were devastating. You know, he, he was against it and that that was against the law of God and all kinds of things like that. So she took him to task about that. And he looked at her and he apologized. He said, "I said that because that's what I thought at that time. But I'm sorry that I said that because I see now that that's wrong and I hope you will understand and forgive me because you know I've changed my thinking and I'm, you know, I'm bold enough to say that I've changed my thinking. I'm sorry about that but that's what I believed at that moment." And she was prepared to forgive him. Now the other civil rights leaders in no instance was there any contention or even debate among them and Malcolm. Nobody was out trying to shoot Malcolm down because remember he himself, you know, had just gone through a very devastating time. He had been ran out of the Nation of Islam and was suffering a great deal from his rejection by Elijah Muhammad so nobody, you know, wanted to take advantage of that. What was discussed was what were the practical ways in which Malcolm could begin to get on board with the regular civil rights leaders but at the same time retain enough threat to serve his old purpose you know. How can Malcolm be a part of us and at the same time serve the function of being outside saying, "Look, if you don't deal with them, you're going to have to deal with me." So tactics were at issue and, ah, he was a brilliant man he could be an overpowering man but at that meeting he was very deliberately a student, listening, and asking very polite questions to those leaders but determined at the bottom line to be included. He wanted to be a part of that struggle.