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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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This work examines the history of the Pan-Africanist educational institution Malcolm X Liberation University as an extension of the educational and social philosophies of Malcolm X. This narrative centers on the period from 1960 to 1973 during the decline of the traditional Civil Rights Movement and the rise of Black Power activism. It also explores the educational influence of Malcolm X as a proponent of Black Nationalism and the ideological evolution of the Black Student Movement.

Malcolm X Liberation University (MXLU) was founded in Durham and Greensboro, North Carolina in the late 1960s as a by-product of the national Black Student Movement that had begun during the Civil Rights Movement.1 During this same period, the Nation of Islam (NOI), a Black Nationalist organization whose activities extended the legacy of the Pan-Africanist movement led by Marcus Garvey in the 1920s, was making inroads in the urban North. The NOI, which was founded in 1930, would eventually produce a spokesman who would reinvigorate Black Nationalism and influence Black thought far beyond the organization’s secular limits.2 That person was Malcolm X.

For many, Malcolm represented the unspoken aspirations of millions of Black folks who wanted social, political, and economic empowerment as opposed to the social integration proffered by the Civil Rights Movement. As national spokesman ← 1 | 2 → for the Nation of Islam and later founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), Malcolm was a decisive figure in the rise of Black Nationalism and the emergence of...

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