Why Malcolm X Idolised the Mau Mau and Kenyan Independence Struggle

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American activist Malcom X idolised the Mau Mau and the Kenyan people’s struggle for independence against the British Empire, a struggle he described as the first Black Revolution during the slavery and colonial era.

In 1963, while still the leading spokesman for the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X gave a speech at a rally in Detroit, Michigan which he openly expressed his admiration for the Mau Mau.

Titled ”Message to the Grassroots” the speech is considered to be the first to outline Malcolm X’s basic black nationalist philosophy and established him as a major critic of the civil rights movement. 

In the fiery December 10th 1963 address, just two days before Kenya’s independence day on December 12th, Malcolm describes the Mau Mau as Black revolutionaries who believed in scorched earth and knocked aside everything that came their way.

Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research. And when you see that you’ve got problems, all you have to do is examine the historic method used all over the world by others who have problems similar to yours. And once you see how they got theirs straight, then you know how you can get yours straight. There’s been a revolution, a black revolution, going on in Africa.”

In Kenya, the Mau Mau were revolutionaries; they were the ones who made the word “Uhuru” [Kenyan word for “freedom”]. They were the ones who brought it to the fore. The Mau Mau, they were revolutionaries. They believed in scorched earth. They knocked everything aside that got in their way, and their revolution also was based on land, a desire for land,” an excerpt of the speech reads.

Malcolm X made at least four trips to the continent before his assassination in 1965 – the first in late March-early April 1959 and then again 2 months later and, finally, two trips in 1964. The last 1964 trip was longer from July to November, visiting a string of countries where he met a range of intellectuals and political figures.

In Egypt, attended the OAU conference and talked with president Nasser. In Ghana, he met Shirley DuBois and Maya Angelou. In Tanzania, Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu and Julius Nyerere, and in Kenya, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Jomo Kenyatta.

Watch the entire speech below:

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