Interview with John Lewis

OK, if you could just give us a very personal recollection of Malcolm and his death and what you were doing and how it affected you then, that would be wonderful.


Well, I will never forget, the, ah, the death of Malcolm. Ah, I, heard about his death when we were driving from a small town in South Georgia, Americus, Georgia by way of Atlanta to Selma, Alabama. And the way I remembered the date so well it was February 21st, 1965, ah, my birthday, ah, I was 25. And I tell you, I really felt at that time, that some of the possibilities, ah, died, some of the hope, ah, some of the coming together, the building between the sort of Malcolm wing of the movement if you want to call it that and the Martin Luther King wing of the movement died. Because in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, in the Southern wing, those young Black men and women were deeply influenced by the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence. They believed in it, they believed in the possibility of building an interracial democracy. On the other hand you had Black students and White students, but primarily Black students from the North that was deeply influenced and affected by Malcolm. And then sometime at SNCC meetings, informal meetings, people would get in these, ah, creative arguments about, "Well according to Malcolm--" "According to Martin Luther King--" "Malcolm says such and such a thing." And people would play his speeches, they would read his writings. And, if Malcolm had lived I think you would have witnessed a greater marriage between the, ah, Martin Luther King wing of the movement and the Malcolm wing of the movement.