Lehigh University
Lehigh University


New Malcolm X Book Explores Oxford Union Speech

“This riveting book looks back to a remarkable speech my Malcolm X as a guide to contemporary conundrums of race. By sensitively analyzing the content and power of his rhetoric in context, it teaches challenging lessons about inclusion and the defense of liberty.” – Ira Katznelson, author of “Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time”

In December 1964, when Malcom X walked in the doors of the venerable Oxford Union in England, the tenor of the nation was much the same as it is today. Islam was a religion unknown to many in Europe and the United States. The nation was deeply divided over race, politics and war.

Malcom X’s participation that day in the Oxford Union debate, “is the lost jewel of the civil rights movement. It’s the best delivered, most politically astute explanation of his beliefs and so powerful it presaged Martin Luther King Jr.’s views,” said Saladin Ambar, assistant professor of political science at Lehigh University.

Ambar explores this “lost rhetorical jewel” in his latest book: “Malcolm X at Oxford Union: Politics in a Global Era.” The book places his performance in its context and traces Malcolm X’s predictions through the past half-century. Ambar’s insights combine with this often-overlooked document to reveal little-known truths about Malcolm X as a man and thinker, and to show Malcolm X as a prescient leader who, even 50 years after his death, still has lessons for the world.

“Malcolm X’s speech at Oxford is striking for a number of reasons,” Ambar said. “It wasn’t just someone trying to speak to a British audience. It was someone who was actually trying to speak worldwide through the trend of global decolonization, to race and what was happening around the world. Oxford represents the culmination of his political philosophy and his connection to the civil rights movements at home and around the world at large.”

Ambar recently talked about his book with PBS’ Tavis Smiley. Watch it here

Story by Sarah Siegel

Posted on Thursday, April 03, 2014

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