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An African American Tells Why She Followed Malcolm X

Ethel Minor offers her perspective on the black freedom struggle in this 1997 interview with Catherine Osborn. A follower of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, Minor found the integrationist aims of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers "humiliating." She preferred the more militant approach of Malcolm X, whom she describes as "a truth-bearing angel from heaven."

Catherine: Ms. Minor, how did you first get involved with the Nation of Islam?

Ethel: I had just returned to Chicago, after living in Colombia, South America.

Catherine: Excuse me, but why were you in South America?

Ethel: A good question. I think I was trying to escape from a country that offered me limited opportunities. I wanted to work at the United Nations, but when I got my degree in 1959, the U.S. government was not hiring ‘colored girls’ to represent this country.

Catherine: But in the 1960s there were all those sit-ins and marches going on. Why didn’t you just take part in them?

Ethel: I saw that as people who were in an inferior position begging to be let in by people who were in a superior position. "Master, will you please let me come in and eat a hamburger in your store, let me drink out of your water fountain?" I found that very humiliating.

Catherine: But you did come back to the United States.

Ethel: Yes, in 1962, and that’s when I saw Malcolm X on television. He was explaining the program of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who founded the Nation of Islam. Malcolm was a like a truth-bearing angel from heaven. There he was on the white man's television, "telling it like it is."

Source | Casey King and Linda Barrett Osborne, eds., Oh Freedom! Kids Talk About the Civil Rights Movement with the People Who Made it Happen (New York, Random House, 1997), 94-96.
Interviewer | Catherine Osbourne
Interviewee | Ethel Minor
Item Type | Oral History
Cite This document | “An African American Tells Why She Followed Malcolm X,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed July 20, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/963.

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