Black Islam and the Legacy of Malcolm X
On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem as he spoke to members of his new Organization of Afro-American Unity. Killed a few months shy of his fortieth birthday, Malcolm was struck down not only in the prime of his life, but also at a moment where his previously rigidly held beliefs about race, religion, and international solidarity were shifting and morphing into new ideas about the universality of Islam as a religious tradition. The critical importance of Islam to the Black freedom struggle, specifically, however, has never divorced from Malcolm’s worldview. From resistance on slave plantations to present day struggles among Black Americans in the aftermath of 9/11, Islam has played a critical role in the search for freedom and the solidification of community among Black people in the Americas. It has also served as a lens through which race and racial identity has been reflected and refracted. Malcolm’s image and legacy has repeatedly been used to further these ends, sometimes to the point of rendering him a historically blank slate. In honor of the fifty-sixth anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination and Black History month, Stanford University and the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic studies presents a panel celebrating the legacy of Malcolm X and Islam in the Black American and African Diasporic tradition.
Hisham Aidi is Senior Lecturer at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. His research interests include cultural globalization and the political economy of race and social movements. He is the author of Redeploying the State (Palgrave, 2008) a comparative study of neo-liberalism and labor movements in Latin America; co-editor, with Manning Marable, of Black Routes to Islam (Palgrave, 2009); and Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture (Pantheon, 2014), a study of American cultural diplomacy and winner of the American Book Award of 2015.
As an oral historian, Zaheer Ali is committed to leveraging the power of storytelling for social change. He is History Editor at Sapelo Square: An Online Resource on Black Muslims in the U.S., co-leads the Pillars Fund’s Muslim Narrative Change initiative, and is a 2020-2021 Open Society Foundations Soros Equality Fellow. He directed Brooklyn Historical Society’s Muslims in Brooklyn public history and arts project, and he was a lead researcher for Manning Marable’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Malcolm X biography.
Atiya Husain is Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Richmond. She holds a PhD in sociology from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a BA from University of Michigan. Her work can be found in Social Identities, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, and Ethnic and Racial Studies, as well as Boston Review and Slate. She is working on a book manuscript on the FBI most wanted program, terrorism, race, and Black radicalism.
Alaina Morgan (moderator) is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at USC. Her research focuses on the historic utility of religion, in particular Islam, in racial liberation and anti-colonial movements of the mid- to late-twentieth century Atlantic world. Her first book, tentatively entitled Atlantic Crescent: Dreaming of Black Muslim Liberation in the Contemporary Atlantic World, considers the ways that Islam and Blackness were used by Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Anglophone Caribbean to form the basis of transnational anti-colonial and anti-imperial political movements from the end of World War II to the end of the twentieth century.