Malcolm's Visit

May 23rd, 2012

I was very interested to read the story of Malcolm X’s 1961 Brown speech (“The Night Malcolm X Came to Brown,” March/April). I remember that night very clearly, with Malcolm X’s fiery oratory and the enthusiastic response of the audience, which was made up largely of African Americans, a unique circumstance for Sayles Hall in those days.

Certainly there were other Brown students in attendance that night, but few of us in the class of 1961 were black. Before this event, I hadn’t given much thought to how badly blacks were treated in our country, so I was surprised by Malcolm X’s words and their warm reception. His speech, given with eloquent intensity, was a signal that the civil rights activities of the 1960s were set to begin.

Thanks to Malcolm Burnley ’12 for tracking down the fascinating background to this speech, and to Katherine Pierce ’62 and the late Richard Holbrooke ’62 for bringing Malcolm X to Brown. The audiotape of the speech, which Katherine preserved for all these years, will certainly be a valuable historical record.

David S. Curry ’61
Iowa City, Iowa

The John Hay Library hopes to have the tape available online sometime this summer.


In late February 1965 I remember a shocking poster in the Rockefeller Library: “Malcolm X: Talk Cancelled Due to Assassination,” which was the first I had heard of Malcolm X’s murder. Sadly, a second visit to Brown never transpired.

Don Roth ’65
Davis, Calif.

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May/June 2012