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Fighting for Our Place in the Sun

Malcolm X and the Radicalization of the Black Student Movement 1960–1973


Richard Benson

In Fighting for Our Place in the Sun, Richard D. Benson II examines the life of Malcolm X as not only a radical political figure, but also as a teacher and mentor. The book illuminates the untold tenets of Malcolm X’s educational philosophy, and also traces a historical trajectory of Black activists that sought to create spaces of liberation and learning that are free from cultural and racial oppression. It explains a side of the Black student movement and shift in black power that develops as a result of the student protests in North Carolina and Duke University. From these acts of radicalism, Malcolm X Liberation University (MXLU), the Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU/YOBU), and African Liberation Day (ALD) were produced to serve as catalysts to extend the tradition of Black activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Scholars, researchers, community organizers, and students of African-American studies, American studies, history of education, political science, Pan-African studies, and more will benefit from this provocative and enlightening text.


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Chapter 1: Malcolm X and/as Social Pedagogy. A Critical Historical Analysis


1Malcolm X and/as Social Pedagogy A Critical Historical Analysis It had been ten months since his break with the Nation of Islam, nine since his pilgrimage to Mecca, and seven since he had announced the formation of the Or- ganization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU); clearly Malcolm X had much on his mind. And yet, on January 26, 1965, as he spoke into a microphone for a Dart- mouth College radio station, Malcolm seemed unconstrained by the exigencies of the Black Nationalism he hoped to foster through the OAAU or by the doctrinal demands of the Islamic orthodoxy he had embraced during his journey to the Ka’aba. Instead, he spoke as Malcolm X the revolutionary educator, Malcolm X the populist pedagogue, Malcolm X the teacher. “Education is first,” he said during the Dartmouth interview. “Education is the first step towards solving any problem that exists anywhere on this Earth which involves people who are oppressed.”1 Although Malcolm’s public persona had been shaped—for good and ill—by his allegiance to Islam and his commitment to a radical revision of the means and methods of securing progress for African Americans, his actions reflected a professorial pre-occupation with a social pedagogy that had as its chief aim the expansion of knowledge throughout a global academy. Still, despite his stated belief in the power of education and his emergence as a forceful teacher with an international profile—during his 1964 trip to Africa, he had been greeted by thousands of young people during...

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