Malcolm X and African American Self-Consciousness

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This book argues that Malcolm X told African Americans to affirm their blooming sense of self and to assert themselves in their own uniqueness. However, he realized that the first route to African American affirmation of self was to awaken black self-consciousness and he therefore called for black wide-awakeness. The book concludes that "Malcolm X's call for a psychological return to Africa through a process of historical reconstruction was aimed at overthrowing the enslavement of African American thought and thereby setting African Americans on the path to freedom and human dignity."


“Magnus Bassey re-creates Malcolm Little's painful pilgrimage from Omaha, Nebraska, where he was born on May 19, 1925, to the Audubon Ballroom in a Harlem theatre in New York City, where he was gunned down on February 21, 1965. His life was cut short at a time when he appeared to be on the threshold of conversion to an inclusive humanism. His tortuous odyssey provides one with a vivid narrative of the nightmarish African American experience. Bassey weaves a compelling story of a human being caught in a web of absurd and perverse social forces in a struggle for his own humanity and self-esteem. Although Bassey gives us an account of the brute material forces at work he attempts to go beyond these and explore the psychological consequences that may provide insights about the making of human self-consciousness in general and African American self-consciousness in particular. Through Malcolm X' s speeches, FBI accounts, biographical records, reporters' accounts and other observers of Malcolm X's social landscape, Professor Bassey teases out and uncovers a portrait of a vital human being under adverse conditions in a struggle against the cultural categories that made oppression and racism a modus operandi of everyday life and damaged his humanity and that of those around him. At the end we have a portrait of a Malcolm X in the fullness of his humanity; a Malcolm X who refused to be defined by those alien cultural categories that had visited so much harm on himself and all African Americans, and at the same time had distorted his humanity. Through generous quotations from Malcolm X's speeches Bassey enables us to tap into the sounds and rhythms of four hundred years of pain and suffering arbitrarily imposed on African Americans.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Dr. Anthony Roda, Professor of Philosophy, State University of New York College at Oneonta

“Magnus Bassey’s latest book offers a radical reinterpretation of Malcolm X that builds on and goes above and beyond his earlier work, Malcolm X: The Seeker of Justice. This is a well-conceived, philosophically fascinating foray into the uncharted regions of Malcolm X’s mind, Africana Studies, and intellectual biography. Bassey, to put it plainly, is at his best, boldly bringing Malcolm X’s critical thought to bear on intricate and often-overlooked issues that most Malcolm X scholars have long shied away from. We have reached the point in Malcolm X studies where tired and worn out discussions of Malcolm’s views on race and racism can finally and freshly be engaged in light of his evolving views on education, gender, democracy, and war — not to mention his hard-hitting critiques of both capitalism and colonialism. In this sense, Bassey has broken new ground, not simply by challenging the narrow-minded myth of Malcolm as “race man” or, what is worst, “racist,” but also by epistemologically opening the discourse on Malcolm X to novel classical and contemporary theoretical perspectives, many of which are internal to and emanate from the history of Africana thought and the new discursive directions of Africana Studies. The reading of Malcolm as a radical humanist is provocative and extremely revealing; the examination of his ideas employing a black existentialist frame of reference is audacious and awe-inspiring; the dense discussion of his views on education and radical democracy is first-rate; and, the exploration of his ever-changing thoughts on women is, without a doubt, path-breaking. In short, this is a book which must be read by anyone who considers him or herself a serious Malcolm X scholar.” – Reiland Rabaka, Ph.D., Department of Black Studies, California State University-Long Beach

“Dr. Bassey has advanced and re-envisioned the scholarship on Malcolm X by casting him not only as an activist but also a thinker, intellectual, and philosopher. In that multiple framework he continues the work of William Sale, From Civil Rights to Black Liberation (1994) who argues that Malcolm was a critical thinker because of his founding the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Bassey also expands the work of John Henrik Clarke on Malcolm who situates him in the resistance tradition in Notes for an African World Revolution (1991). Bassey adds to and differs from these scholars because he persuasively provides analysis of Malcolm X using humanist and existentialist conceptualizations. This gives a fresh and original way of viewing Malcolm’s contributions to globalization and ideology. Isolating Malcolm’s key ideas for critique and examination, Bassey comparatively analyzes White and Black intellectuals who charted new courses for western civilization at large. He creates Malcolm as a man who entered living traditions, extending, intersecting, discounting, and transforming various ideological trends in order to ignite the self-consciousness of the “so-called n/Negro.”… In his reformulation of Malcolm X, Bassey revisits democratic and African ideals that inform African-American consciousness. Such an interpretative methodology allows Malcolm his due as a male leader, intellectual, and activist because it breaks the touted and traditional rendition of Malcolm as a tragic hero. In an African humanistic conception, this work is a revelation and celebration of X’s blueprint for Black social, political, cultural, and educational evolution. Bassey smoothly outlines the life of Malcolm X and the details that shaped his shifts and advances in thought and activism specifically relating to people of African descent … Magnus Bassey’s well thought out and researched text presents the legacy of Malcolm X in ways that expose the minister’s realistic and practical brilliance and his potential to influence future generations. This very important book is an excellent read, insightfully written and thought provoking. I recommend it for high schools, colleges, and universities, as well as readers interested in understanding Malcolm X.” – Regina Jennings, Ph.D, Rutgers University

Table of Contents

1. The Life and Times of Malcolm X: From the Underside of American History to Humanist
2. Existence and Consciousness, Blacks in American Society: The Making of African American Self
About the Negro Name
3. Malcolm's Articulation of African American Consciousness, Hopelessness, Helplessness, Oppression and Call for Empowerment
Consequences of the Yoke of Slavery
4. Venture in Faith and Consciousness
5. Malcolm X on Human Rights and African AmericanHumanity
Malcolm-The Humanist
6. Malcolm X and Gender
Malcolm X: His Attitude and Posture Toward Women
7. Malcolm's Political Philosophy
Malcolm X and the Political Awakening of African Americans
Bibliography Index

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