Malcolm X, the OAU Resolution of 1964, and Tanzania: Pan-African Connections in the Struggle against Racial Discrimination

By Mbughuni, Azaria | Journal of Pan African Studies, September 2014 | Go to article overview

Malcolm X, the OAU Resolution of 1964, and Tanzania: Pan-African Connections in the Struggle against Racial Discrimination


Mbughuni, Azaria, Journal of Pan African Studies


Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) made three trips to Africa, first in 1959, and two subsequent trips in 1964. The final two trips culminated in a transformation of his vision of Pan Africanism, the anti-imperialist struggle, and race relations. One of the highlights of his last trip to Africa was the passing of a resolution addressing the plight of African Americans in the U.S. This resolution was passed with the assistance of the President of Tanzania, Julius K. Nyerere (1922-1999). The contact between Malcolm and east African leaders contributed to the strengthening of linkages between the struggles of African people in Africa and African Americans and to Malcolm X's own growth as a revolutionary.

Writers studying Malcolm (Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) often focus exclusively on his pilgrimage to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia and to his the tours in west Africa. Furthermore, most writers dismiss the resolution on African American struggle passed by the Second Summit of Organization of African Unity as insignificant. (1) The pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia was very important in opening Malcolm's views on orthodox Islam, and the second trip to west Africa helped cement his Pan-African convictions; however, the connection he made with east African Pan Africanist leaders such as Nyerere, Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu (1924-1996), and Tom Mboya (1930-1969) significantly contributed to Malcolm's growth and helped strengthen the connections between African people in Africa and African Americans. Many authors writing about Malcolm's experiences in Africa overlook his trip to east Africa and do not mention the fact that it was Nyerere who helped Malcolm pass the OAU resolution in Cairo. (2) The passage of a resolution on the struggle of African Americans and racism in the U.S. by the Cairo OAU Summit in July 21, 1964 was an important step in connecting the struggles of African Americans and that of African people in Africa.

Historians have often overlooked the importance of this resolution and the impact African people in east Africa had on Malcolm. Reporters covering the Summit reported that Malcolm was rejected by African leaders and failed to get what he wanted. This was part of the narrative that the U.S. government encouraged to discredit Malcolm. Malcolm's biographer Alex Haley (1921-1992) also overlooked the OAU Summit in Cairo. (3) Malcolm and Haley mention Nyerere and several African leaders in the biography, but they did not provide much detail. The absence of any discussion of the Summit is puzzling considering that it was the first time thirty four independent African nations spoke up in support of African Americans as a group. And more recently, some scholars have dismissed the resolution as halfhearted and inconsequential. According to Manning Marable (1950-2011), Malcolm failed to persuade the African heads of state to pass a strong resolution condemning the U.S. and asserts that the OAU only passed a "trepid resolution" applauding the U.S. for the passage of the Civil Rights Bill and critiquing the lack of racial progress. (4)

A recent biography of Malcolm by A. Assensoh and Yvette Alex-Assensoh is also dismissive of the OAU resolution; they assert "Malcolm had also failed, at the 1964 OAU meeting in Cairo, to get African leaders to condemn the United States." (5) A. Assensoh and Yvette Alex-Assensoh argue that the Director of the U.S. Information Agency, Carl Rowan (1925-2000), was able to convince African leaders of the improvements made in the U.S., and as such, the African heads of state decided not to issue a statement condemning America at the Summit. However, they do admit later in the book that the OAU passed a "mild, nonbinding resolution" urging the U.S. to devote resources to fight racism. (6) Russell J. Rickford who wrote a biography of Malcolm's wife, Betty Shabazz (1934-1997), also argued that Malcolm's "efforts ultimately fell short." (7)

Rickford shares the view that the resolution did not go far enough. …

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