Malcolmology 101, #12: “The Hate That Hate Produced”

By 1959, the Nation of Islam had become recognizable to the general public, although it was viewed by many as a marginal “hate” group not unlike George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party. Among those interested in the burgeoning group was C. Eric Lincoln, a young doctoral student who began research on his work The Black Muslims in America, which would become a seminal text on the NOI. Louis Lomax, a black journalist, also pitched the idea of a documentary series on the Nation to media personality Mike Wallace. With Malcolm X out of the country on his first trip abroad, the series aired in New York from July 13 - 17, 1959 in five half-hour increments. More than the Johnson Hinton affair or any of Malcolm’s previous public appearances, “The Hate That Hate Produced,” introduced the NOI to a general audience.

Unfortunately for the Nation, the primary thrust of the broadcast - encapsulated in its name - was of an integrationist perspective. The series threatened white liberal viewers by portraying the sect as a vengeful and reactionary answer to racism in America. Eager to distance themselves, civil rights leaders quickly denounced the NOI and the public perception of Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad as black demagogues was further exacerbated. Despite this negative publicity, the series acted as a springboard to all those involved. Mike Wallace would go on to cover the 1960 presidential campaign and eventually land with CBS’s “60 Minutes.” Lomax continued to maintain a relationship with the NOI and published several books in which the group served as a major topic. For the Nation of Islam, the series was yet another introduction to a wider audience and showed the possibilities for growth that such publicity offered. After putting out the flames fanned by the documentary, Malcolm X began working over the next couple years to produce a monthly newspaper, Mr. Muhammad Speaks, which would spread the word of Elijah Muhammad to both a Muslim and non-Muslim audience. Although the lesson in public affairs would serve Malcolm well in garnering more attention to the Nation, it also furthered internal criticisms from Chicago headquarters that such publicity was driven primarily by vanity and self-promotion.

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Malcolm X A Life of Reinvention