I found the article on Malcolm X’s 1961 visit to Brown fascinating. I am extremely pleased to find out that an audiotape of his talk was preserved by Katharine Pierce ’62 (“The Night Malcolm X Came to Brown,” March/April).
This amazing story highlights for me how one can exist in the midst of decisive historical events yet not have a clue that they are happening. I was at Brown when Malcolm visited campus, but probably had no idea who he was or, if I did, what he really represented. I certainly would not have attended his talk. But now, looking back on this missed opportunity, I can only reflect on how the meaning of events in one’s life changes throughout one’s existence.
About a year after Malcolm’s visit, I had my first exposure to the movement that he represented, when I took Prof. William G. McLoughlin’s class on Social & Intellectual History of the United States from 1865 to the Present. One of our final readings was James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, in which Malcolm and the Nation of Islam are discussed. It was quite an awakening, but by then Malcolm had come and gone. A number of years later, while teaching a course on the Psychology of Freedom, I chose to use Malcolm’s Autobiography as one of the texts for the course. I was very impressed at that time at how in prison he’d been transformed from a common criminal to a religious person.
John Baresi ’63
Halifax, Nova Scotia