Tuesday 27 February 2018

When Malcolm X visited Smethwick after racist election

"The politics of racism and anti-racism that was born out of American struggles strongly influenced the ways in which race was conceived of in Britain. The ripples of the civil rights movement were felt across the Atlantic in 1960s Britain, where images of the civil rights movement in the South and urban revolts in the North were circulated widely by the media.

"This was brought into sharp focus by Malcolm X's visit to the Black Country town of Smethwick. His presence was opposed by both liberals and conservatives within Britain, representing the dangerous possibility of black resistance spreading from America to the West Midlands. This anxiety was powerfully expressed by Enoch Powell in his Rivers of Blood speech three years later."
In an interview with a local BBC journalist, when asked why he decided to visit Smethwick, Malcolm X drew parallels with Nazi Germany.

"I have heard that the blacks ... are being treated in the same way as the Negroes were treated in Alabama- like Hitler treated the Jews."

For Jouhl, inviting Malcolm X to Smethwick was an expression of solidarity.
"We didn't hope to take anything from it other than strengthening the bonds between us. It was an act of proletarian internationalism," he said.

"We hoped to show solidarity with the struggle of the African Americans who, at that time, were involved in a bitter struggle with US imperialism."

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