“Our history and our culture were completely destroyed when we were forcibly brought to America in chains. And now it is important for us to know that our history did not begin with slavery. We came from Africa, a great continent, wherein live a proud and varied people, a land which is the new world and was the cradle of civilization. Our culture and our history are as old as man himself and yet we know almost nothing about it. This is no accident. It is no accident that such a high state of culture existed in Africa and you and I know nothing about it. Why, the man knew that as long as you and I thought we were somebody, he could never treat us like we were nobody. So he had to invent a system that would strip us of everything about us that we could use to prove we were somebody. And once he had stripped us of all human chacteristics, stripped us of our language, stripped us of our history, stripped us of all cultural knowledge, and brought us down to the level of an animal — he then began to treat us like an animal, selling us from one plantation to another, selling us from one owner to another, breeding us like you breed cattle. Why, brothers and sisters, when you wake up and find out what this man here has done to you and me, you won’t even wait for somebody to give the word. I’m not saying all of them are bad. There might be some good ones. But we don’t have time to look for them. Not nowadays. We must recapture our heritage and our identity if we are ever to liberate ourselves from the bonds of white supremacy. We must launch a cultural revolution to unbrainwash an entire people. A cultural revolution. Why, brothers, that’s a crazy revolution. When you tell this black man in America who he is, where he came from, what he had when he was there, he’ll look around and ask himself, ‘Well, what happened to it, who took it away from us and how did they do it?’ Why, brothers, you’ll have some action just like that. When you let the black man in America know where he once was and what he once had, why, he only needs to look at himself now to realize something criminal was done to him to bring him down to the low condition that he’s in today. Once he realizes what was done, how it was done, where it was done, when it was done, and who did it, that knowledge in itself will usher in your action program. And it will be by any means necessary. A man doesn’t know how to act until he realizes what he’s acting against. And you don’t realize what you’re acting against until you realize what they did to you. Too many of you don’t know what they did to you, and this is what makes you so quick to want to forget and forgive. No, brothers, when you see what has happened to you, you will never forget and you’ll never forgive. And, as I say, all of them might not be guilty. But most of them are. Most of them are.”

Source: Malcolm X’s speech at the Founding Rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, 1964. 

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