There are all kinds of people and factors to consider in the historical development of black studies. But we certainly have to acknowledge, as Mike Sell does in his Triple Front essay, that Malcolm X's "role in this development can't be overestimated."
In 1965, not long before his assassination, Malcolm expressed the following:
Our cultural revolution must be the means of bringing us closer to our African brothers and sisters. It must begin in the community and be based on community participation. Afro-Americans will be free to create only when they can depend on the Afro-American community for support, and Afro-American artists must realize that they depend on the Afro-American community for inspiration.According to Sell, Malcolm's recommendations "were taken to heart" and "immediately following his death, about a dozen performance-oriented, art-and-education institutions such as the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School, Black House, Spirit House, Black Arts West, BLKARTSOUTH, and others, were founded in urban centers across the country."
Those institutions were "designed purposefully to provide alternative leadership structures and evaluative standards to the strictures of academia as well as provide alternative models of scholarship."
I've valued Malcolm as a central and inspiring figure for quite some time. His words and image have been muse and motivation for so many of us. Still, I'm glad that I was reminded about the even deeper histories of his influence, the larger force of his effect in prompting the developments of "art-and-education" groups and alternative models of leadership and scholarship.
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