Malcolm X at Oxford University 1964

We love find­ing these vin­tage media gems. Last week, we served up Orson Welles’ famous radio broad­cast from 1938. This week, we’ve got anoth­er one — Mal­colm X speak­ing at Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty in 1964.In this clas­sic speech, you get a good feel for Mal­colm X’s pres­ence and mes­sage, not to men­tion the social issues that were alive dur­ing the day. You’ll hear X’s trade­mark claim that lib­er­ty can be attained by “what­ev­er means nec­es­sary,” includ­ing force, if the gov­ern­ment won’t guar­an­tee it, and that “intel­li­gent­ly direct­ed extrem­ism” will achieve lib­er­ty far more effec­tive­ly than paci­fist strate­gies. (He’s clear­ly allud­ing to Mar­tin Luther King.) You can lis­ten to the speech in its entire­ty here (Real Audio), some­thing that is well worth doing. But we’d also encour­age you to watch (see below) the dra­mat­ic clos­ing min­utes and pay some atten­tion to the nice rhetor­i­cal slide, to how we get from Ham­let’s doubts (“To be or not to be”) to tak­ing up arms:

“I read once, pass­ing­ly, about a man named Shake­speare. I only read about him pass­ing­ly, but I remem­ber one thing he wrote that kind of moved me. He put it in the mouth of Ham­let, I think, it was, who said, ‘To be or not to be.’ He was in doubt about something—whether it was nobler in the mind of man to suf­fer the slings and arrows of out­ra­geous fortune—moderation—or to take up arms against a sea of trou­bles and by oppos­ing end them. And I go for that. If you take up arms, you’ll end it, but if you sit around and wait for the one who’s in pow­er to make up his mind that he should end it, you’ll be wait­ing a long time. And in my opin­ion, the young gen­er­a­tion of whites, blacks, browns, what­ev­er else there is, you’re liv­ing at a time of extrem­ism, a time of rev­o­lu­tion, a time when there’s got to be a change. Peo­ple in pow­er have mis­used it, and now there has to be a change and a bet­ter world has to be built, and the only way it’s going to be built—is with extreme meth­ods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone—I don’t care what col­or you are—as long as you want to change this mis­er­able con­di­tion that exists on this earth.”

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.