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Welcome to our series that brings you original content from individuals in the news. We’re calling it “Verbatim” because these posts will let the authors speak for themselves. 

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On the occasion of his birthday, we feature a February, 1965 telephone conversation between Malcolm X and the organizers of a meeting that was to take place in Paris at the Mutualité. Malcolm X never made it to the meeting. He was detained at the airport by the French police, and sent back to London where the organizers of the meeting decided to call him. This is a recording of the conversation.

Malcolm. The Afro-American community in France and in other parts of Europe must unite white [sic] the African Community, and this was the message that I was going to bring to Paris tonight — the necessity for the black community in the Western hemisphere, especially in the United States and somewhat in the Caribbean area, realising once and for all that we must restore our cultural roots, we must establish contacts with our African brothers, we must begin from this day forward to work in unity and harmony as Afro-Americans along with our African brothers. This unity will give our struggle a type of strength in spirit that will enable us to make some real concrete progress whether we be in Europe, America, or on the African continent. I wanted to show our brothers in Paris the necessity of us forming a coalition, a working community with our brothers of the African continent. Although the theme of my talk was the importance of unity between the black people in the Western hemisphere and those of the African continent, it was going to be a regionalist approach which I finds is no different from what they have there in Europe — what they call the European Common Market. The European Common Market looks out for the common interests of Europeans and the European economy. I feel it necessary for those of us who were taken from the African continent and who today are suffering exploitation and oppression in the Western hemisphere to reach out our hands and unite ourselves with our brothers and sisters again, wherever we are, and then work in unity and harmony for a positive program of mutual benefit.

Q. — Unity — so that was the theme of your talk tonight, right ? I would like to know what else you would have liked to have said to the African and Afro-American communities here in Paris ?

Malcolm. — My entire talk would have been based on the importance of unity, the unity between the — {the tape cuts off).

Q. — Operator, Operator ! (Operator. — Have you finished ?)

Q. — No, we have not finished, operator.

(Operator. — Just a moment, you were cut off by the switch board.)

Q. — The switchboard ? Hello ! Hello ! Why was the phone disconnected ?

(Operator. — I don’t know — it was cut off in the hotel…)

Malcolm. — Hello ! I guess we better wind it up, brother.

Q. — Yes, yes, brother. Then I would like to hear anything else you have to say to us.

You can read the full conversation and download the PDF here.
You may also read a March 1964 speech by Malcolm X that was delivered at a forum at the Leverett House at Harvard College in 1964.


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Présence Africaine, Nouvelle série, No. 62 (2e TRIMESTRE 1967), pp. 63-69
Présence Africaine Editions
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 1 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 35-37
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