EXCERPT: “The Ballot or The Bullet”

On April 3, 1964 at Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland, OH, Minister Malcolm X delivers his most provocative speech on the importance of Voting Rights. Here are excerpts from his speech given at their symposium sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

…if you are black you should be thinking black, and if you are black and you not thinking black at this late date, well I’m sorry for you…

“This is why I say it’s the ballot or the bullet. It’s liberty or it’s death. It’s freedom for everybody or freedom for nobody. America today finds herself in a unique situation. Historically, revolutions are bloody. Oh, yes, they are. They haven’t never had a blood-less revolution, or a non-violent revolution. That doesn’t happen even in Hollywood.

You don’t have a revolution in which you love your enemy, and you don’t have a revolution in which you are begging the system of exploitation to integrate you into it. Revolutions overturn systems. Revolutions destroy systems. A revolution is bloody, but America is in a unique position. She’s the only country in history in a position actually to become involved in a blood-less revolution.

The Russian revolution was bloody, Chinese revolution was bloody, French revolution was bloody, Cuban revolution was bloody, and there was nothing more bloody then the American Revolution. But today this country can become involved in a revolution that won’t take bloodshed…

So, I say in my conclusion the only way we’re going to solve it – we’ve got to unite in unity and harmony, and black nationalism is the key. How we gonna overcome the tendency to be at each others throats that always exists in our neighborhoods? And the reason this tendency exists, the strategy of the white man has always been divide and conquer. He keeps us divided in order to conquer us. He tells you I’m for separation and you for integration to keep us fighting with each other. No, I’m not for separation and you’re not for integration. What you and I are for is freedom. Only you think that integration would get you freedom, I think separation would get me freedom. We both got the same objective, we just got different ways of getting at it.”

El Hajj Malik el Shabazz

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