Interview with Gordon Parks
Malcolm X, Gordon Parks (from the Malcolm X Museum)

Excerpt from a conversation between Gordon Parks and Malcolm X, February 19, 1965

"Is it really true that the Black Muslims are out to get you?" I asked.

"It's as true as we are standing here. They've tried it twice in the last two weeks."

"What about police protection?"

He laughed. "Brother, nobody can protect you from a [Black] Muslim but a [Black] Muslim -- or someone trained in [Black] Muslim tactics. I know. I invented many of those tactics."

"Don't you have any protection at all?"

He laughed again. "Oh, there are hunters and there are those who hunt the hunters. But the odds are certainly with those who are most skilled at the game."

He explained that he was now ready to provide a single, unifying platform for all our people, free of political, religious, and economic differences. "One big force under one banner," he called it. He was convinced that whatever mistakes he had made after leaving Elijah Muhammad had been in the name of brotherhood. "Now it looks like this brotherhood I wanted so badly has got me in a jam," he said.

Within the last year he had sent me postcards from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, and Tanganyika, and I thanked him for them.

"Everybody's wondering why I've been going back and forth to Africa. Well, first I went to Mecca to get closer to the orthodox religion of Islam. I wanted firsthand views of the African leaders -- their problems are inseparable from ours. The cords of bigotry and prejudice here can be cut with the same blade. We have to keep that blade sharp and share it with one another." Now he was sounding like the old Malcolm: "Strangely enough, listening to leaders like Nasser, Ben Bella, and Nkrumah awakened me to the dangers of racism. I realized racism isn't just a Black and white problem. It's brought bloodbaths to about every nation on earth at one time or another."

He stopped and remained silent for a few moments. "Brother," he said finally, ''remember the time that white college girl came into the restaurant -- the one who wanted to help the Muslims and the whites get together -- and I told her there wasn't a ghost of a chance and she went away crying?"


"Well, I've lived to regret that incident. In many parts of the African continent I saw white students helping Black people. Something like this kills a lot of argument. I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I'm sorry for now. I was a zombie then -- like all [Black] Muslims -- I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man's entitled to make a fool of himself if he's ready to pay the cost. It cost me twelve years."

"That was a bad scene, brother. The sickness and madness of those days -- I'm glad to be free of them. It's a time for martyrs now. And if I'm to be one, it will be in the cause of brotherhood. That's the only thing that can save this country. I've learned it the hard way -- but I've learned it. And that's the significant thing."

As we parted he laid his hand on my shoulder, looked into my eyes and said, "As-salaam-alaikum, brother."

"And may peace be with you, Malcolm," I answered.