Malcolmology 101, #14: The NOI and George Lincoln Rockwell

Although George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party (ANP), may have seemed ideologically incongruous with the attitudes and theology of the Nation of Islam, both he and Elijah Muhammad found reasons in the early 1960s to coordinate and discuss strategies of racial separation. In one of the more bizarre pairings since Marcus Garvey sat down with KKK imperial wizard Edward Young Clarke in 1922, Rockwell and the NOI had a standing relationship for the better part of two years in which he and the ANP attended several meetings and wrote articles supporting the black separatist group. Although Malcolm X was always uncomfortable with the relationship, Rockwell had little trouble finding common ground; just a year after Malcolm’s assassination, in an interview with Alex Haley, Rockwell pronounced: “Malcolm X said the same thing I’m saying.”

The coalition between the ANP and NOI was not without precedent. Earlier in 1961, Malcolm and Minister Jeremiah Shabazz had secretly met with the KKK in Atlanta, just as Garvey had done nearly 40 years earlier. The meeting’s purpose was to secure farmland in the south for NOI business ventures while forming a pact of non-aggression with the local Klan. The formal declaration of the ANP’s relationship with the Nation came at a “Freedom Rally” in Washington D.C. at Uline Arena before a crowd of 8,000. Rockwell and twenty “storm troopers” gathered to hear Malcolm X deliver a speech entitled “Separation or Death.” Rockwell stated that he disagreed with the Muslims only on the point of land: “They want a chunk of America and I prefer that they go to Africa.”

In January 1962, Rockwell wrote to his followers in the Party’s newspaper, The Rockwell Report, that Elijah Muhammad “has gathered millions of the dirty, immoral, drunken, filthy-mouthed, lazy and repulsive people sneeringly called ‘niggers’ and inspired them to the point where they are clean, sober, honest, hard working, dignified, dedicated and admirable human beings in spite of their color.” The following month, Rockwell was invited to attend the NOI’s sacred yearly convention, Saviour’s Day, in Chicago. There he addressed the crowd of 12,000 in full Nazi regalia, stating that “no American white desires to intermix with black people.” He then contributed twenty dollars to a collection plate being passed around; when Malcolm X asked who had given the money one storm trooper shouted “George Lincoln Rockwell,” who then stood to take a smattering of applause. Malcolm chided, “You got the biggest hand you ever got.” Rockwell’s appearance at NOI functions dwindled, but he was spotted in May of 1963 at the Los Angeles trial following the death of mosque member Ronald Stokes. Certainly the affinity between the NOI and the ANP was not well-conceived and Malcolm X later used the meeting with the KKK as leverage against Elijah Muhammad once their relationship had soured. But, the continued negotiations with white racists during a time in which blacks in the South were being beaten, harassed and murdered, is one of the most disturbing in the history of the NOI and Malcolm X’s career.

Citation: George Lincoln Rockwell, “Black Muslims Hear US Nazi,” The Rockwell Report, April 1, 1962.

The Rockwell Report, April 1, 1962.

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