In 1964, Malcolm X was invited to debate at the Oxford Union Society at Oxford University. The topic of debate that evening was the infamous phrase from Barry Goldwater's 1964 Republican Convention speech: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
His response to this topic stands out as one of the great addresses of the civil rights era. In Malcolm X at Oxford Union: Racial Politics in a Global Era (Oxford University Press), Saladin Ambar offers the first in-depth analysis of this important speech, illuminating its context and consequences.
Delivered just months before Malcolm's assassination, the speech followed a period in which Malcolm had traveled throughout Africa and much of the Muslim world, advocating on behalf of blacks in America and other nations. The journey broadened his political thought to encompass decolonization and the revolutions underway in the developing world. His travels culminated in a revolutionary speech that tackled a staggering array of issues: the nature of national identity; US foreign policy in the developing world; racial politics at home; the experiences of black immigrants in England; and the nature of power in the contemporary world.
The speech represented the most advanced stage of his thought, proffering a global and humanist approach to ushering in social change. Malcolm X at Oxford Union reshapes our understanding not only of the man himself, but world politics both then and now.
Kirk Meighoo is a TV and podcast host, former university lecturer, author and former Senator in Trinidad and Tobago. He hosts his own podcast, Independent Thought & Freedom, where he interviews some of the most interesting people from around the world who are shaking up politics, economics, society and ideas. You can find it in the iTunes Store or any of your favorite podcast providers. You can also subscribe to his YouTube channel. If you are an academic who wants to get heard nationally, please check out his free training at becomeapublicintellectual.com.
Kirk Meighoo is a political economist, broadcaster, author, former senator, former professor.