The Fall of America
Washington DC Speech May 29, 1959
The following are excerpts from a speech I delivered before a gathering of well over ten thousand people at the Uline Arena. Washington, DC, Sunday, May 29, 1959.)
1 My people, I am here to fulfill a promise made long ago. I am here to bring you the truth. I am here with a solution to the problems of the so-called Negro and his white slave masters. You are seeking something. You are seeking an answer to your four hundred year old problem of slavery, servitude and fifth - class citizenship. I am here with the solution to that problem. How good it is, then, for Black brothers of like minds and similar burdens to get together for a spiritual feast. For more than four hundred years your pleas for justice, freedom, equality, a decent place in the sun have reverberated like thunderclaps sounding in the dark valleys of Lebanon. Yet there has been no answer. Never in the history of human evil have so many asked for a just pittance, so loud, so long and received in return so little, if anything at all.
2 The church has failed you. Christianity has failed you. The government of America has failed you. You have not received justice from any quarter. As prophesied, you, my fellow Black men, are as sheep among wolves and as is to be expected, every wolf is taking a bite at you. You approach the Senate, the House, the White House, and you ask for justice. You get injustice. All our prayers have come to naught because we have proceeded out of ignorance. We have not known the true God. We have not known who are our brothers. We have not known who are our enemies. We have not known who is God; nor have we known who is the devil. In a nutshell, we have not known the truth about God, the devil and until that truth is made plain to us, our prayers for justice will forever go unanswered. We will be the subject of scorn and laughter.
3 By now it should be ever so clear that politics will no more solve our problem than it did the difficulties facing Israel during her bondage in Egypt. We have come to the brink of extinction. We must now and here make an agonizing reappraisal of our way of life if we care anything for ourselves, our lives, our people, our race, the future of our properties, wives and children. Justice is a common thing. Yet, it is elusive. Men have sought its meaning and substance since time began. Plato shrugged that justice was nothing more than the wish of the strongest members of society. Jesus equated justice with brotherhood. Shakespeare saw it as a matter of mercy. I am here to tell you that justice is the eventual working out of the will of God as indicated in the fundamental principles of truth. Justice is the antithesis of wrong, the weapon God will use to bring judgment upon the world, the purpose and consummation of His coming.
4 Although we are the chosen of God, when it comes to justice, the so-called American Negroes are the most deprived people on the planet earth. Had justice prevailed, there would be no need for a day of judgment to come today to plead, not to the unjust judges of the world, but to the just judge to give the Black man of America justice. That just judge is Allah, God. We have come to the end of the days of the unjust judges. Even though it may offend some, you must know the truth of it all. The truth hurts the guilty. According to the sayings of Jesus, the truth will make us free. The imperative need is for a clear cut definition of that truth that will make us free. We must distinguish between the truth and the false so-called truths that have been handed down to us from generation by our slave masters. We have been falsely taught that the truth was the matter of Jesus' birth and death. It has been taught, and this is also false, that the truth is the revelation of Christianity. Neither of these is the truth. Neither of these will make you free. The truth to freedom is the knowledge of God and the devil, truth of yourselves, others and the real religion of God.
5 How mistaken you are to assume that Jesus was the final word of truth. Jesus Himself admitted He could not tell it all. Yet He promised that God would send one who would not only reveal the ultimate truth but Who would reveal it to the people lying in the mud of ignorance and shame. We, the fools of the world, would be the first to know that truth, not the wise of this world. This is not cause for offense: for when God said He would reveal his truth to the fools of the world, it was a blessing, not an insult to us. After all, this names us His chosen people. Thus it is that the problem of the Black man in America has set off an era of troubling throughout the world. Until your problem is solved there will not be peace for anyone. Today, then, is a new day dawning in a new world; for the old day and the old world have passed away. The new day, the new world, if you please, cannot come into full meaning until justice comes to our people. The burden is not our oppressor's alone. Much of it is upon us. The time has come when we must speak or die.
6 Our leaders, or so-called leaders, are choked by fear. Such a leader is not worth the salt that leavens his bread. This fear is the root of their failure to tell you the truth. Now this truth must come out. You have misunderstood the Bible. Christianity is a white man's religion and it contains no salvation for the Black man. For this very reason, the prayers of your preachers to the government, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost have fallen on deaf ears. Now, I ask you, what good is Christianity to you and to me if that religion and the God of that religion will not defend us against lynching and rape? Indeed, we would be fools to believe and trust such a religion and such a God knowing that He bestows all His blessings upon our enemy. We are taught to look forward to a salvation that does not exist. Christianity offers you salvation after death. You must go down into the earth and rot. That kind of salvation I don't want. I will not give you two cents for it. Any man that will work hard all his life praying to God to take and give him a home beyond the grave is a fool. I am sorry if you think ill of me, but the truth is all 1 am going to speak. The Black man in America is in a terrible condition. He is emasculated, blinded, confused, and wandering about at high noon on judgment day. If judgment day were not here, instead of some remote hour to come, I would not be bringing you this message at this hour!
7 Elijah is here because the day of judgment is here! What a sorry spectacle we make before God and the nations of the world! Here we are, upwards of twenty million Black Americans who have given their blood, sweat, and service for four hundred years in the vain hope that one day justice would be ours. When the bugle call of war sounded, the Black soldier stood erect. The plains of Europe, Asia, Africa and America have been fertilized by his blood. Yet the government of the nation, for which he fought and in whose cause he died, allows his sons to he lynched and then adds salt to the wound by concealing the identity of the lynchers. More, the government seeks out the lynchers and then turns them over to their fellowmen who share the lynchers' cause and motives. Our daughters and wives are lynched before our eyes. The government will not put a stop to it. They will allow the lynchers to lynch you and me if we are charged with an attempt to rape one of them. The lynchers live right next door, down the street, up the alley. Yet, they are not brought to justice. All of this grief you and I must suffer. All these burdens, we must bear. It is beyond comprehension that the American government, mistress of the seas, lord of the air, conqueror of outer space, squire of the land and prowler of the deep bottoms of the oceans, is unable to defend us from assault, rape and murder on the streets of these concrete jungles. What sane man can deny that it is now time that you and I take counsel among ourselves to the end of finding justice for ourselves.
8 If we continue to accept these injustices, we are nothing but cowards. If we be cowards, then we ought to go home, kill our wives and then commit suicide. We killed the devil in Germany. We killed his brothers for him. We killed our own brothers for him Yet, we are without justice. We have nothing. Our sons and daughters are lynched, kicked, beaten, hung up in the sun, drowned in the river, in ponds and lakes. Their bodies are found in the street, on the highway, in the bushes -- killed by the very people for whom they have slaved their lives out to give comfort. When you stand up and speak a word in behalf of your own people, you are classified as a troublemaker, you are classified as a Communist, as a race hater and everything but good. How can you as a people ever be anything if you are going to crush out your leaders who try to seek justice for you even at the cost of their own lives? I, Elijah Muhammad, am classified as a race hater. What race? What teaching am I uttering that you can classify as race hatred? How can the devil say little Elijah Muhammad is teaching race hatred in the face of over four hundred years of his hatred of you and me!
9 If God has revealed to me the truth of this race of people and yourself, and I tell you of it, and that is the truth, then don't say that I am teaching race hatred. Just say I teach the truth. There is only one thing that I am teaching today that is hatred. That is the truth of the devil. That truth I did not know. Only God knows the truth of the devil. He has revealed it to me. If that is not the truth, let the devil attack God. It is just that the truth has come to you, people without the knowledge of the truth, the deceived, and misled by a wise, wicked scientist. I am here with the truth from God Almighty, and for that truth I will give my life. I will not hide that truth to the inducement of falsehood. I wont mix it up with falsehood. I say to you, my beloved brothers and sisters of injustice, if you will only reflect on what is said from the mouth of Elijah, you will not take it for insult. You will not take him for a race hater. You will take him for a beloved brother, a beloved teacher and a beloved defender of yourself. I am not before you of myself. I have not been sent of myself. My mission is not for me, nor is my mission from the devil. I have been Sent by Almighty God, Allah. It is a very strong and powerful mission that will bring a turning point in the history of the world at large, the Black man in particular.
10 The truth will make you free. What is that truth that will free us? You say, "We are already free. Abraham Lincoln freed us.'' That is not the kind of freedom of which I speak. Abraham Lincoln was not instrumental in trying to free you. Remember that! Abraham Lincoln wanted a United States of America. They didn't want two presidents. They didn't want two governments ruling America. They wanted only one government with one president for all. It was not that they were so full of love for the so-called Negroes, that he wanted to free them from the hands of his brother. But this was a good weapon to bring his brother into submission to his idea of a United States and one President of that United States. So, therefore you were just lucky that you got freed from servitude and slavery at that time. Otherwise, you would probably still been in servitude and slavery today. You say you love Lincoln. You love him because he freed us. He is your emancipator. I say to you, my beloved brothers and sisters, Mr. Lincoln was not your brother. He was not your friend anymore than George Washington.
11 Now we are one hundred years up from slavery Many of you feel proud that you have been schooled. You have a few diplomas and degrees. You can do little things educationally, but that does not get you justice in America. You still suffer injustice with an armful of diplomas and degrees from colleges and universities. Is that right? If that is not right, I am willing that you shoot me down, cut me down, anyway you please to get rid of me, if I am not right. If I am right, be aware! What we want today is justice. We want the truth. The truth has come to you. You are not accepting it. Think it over! Here are a few of us who have accepted God to be our Lord. We have accepted Islam to be our religion -- an old religion, as old as God, Himself; a religion of the prophets, of all the righteous; a religion of freedom, justice and equality; a religion of universal brotherhood: a religion that a brother will fight and die for his brother; a religion that believes in the law that was given to Moses. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth !
12 Look at Christianity. That law is killed. Why? Because the devil did not want you to strike back at him. Therefore, they condemned an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth in their Christian religion because twenty million so-called Negroes might get an eye for an eye. That is nothing but the common law of justice. If you pluck out my eye, I should try and pluck out yours. But you have been made such harmless slaves by the teaching of a slavery religion called Christianity which teaches you to love, not to strike back, but to turn the other cheek. It teaches you to give freedom to the robber. If he takes one's coat then give him the cloak also. Help the robber to rob. Enrich the thief. That is the kind of religion that you are taught to believe. That is God's religion? I say my friends, it is a slavery teaching! It is against the very nature of you and me to stand and let someone smite us on one side of the cheek and then we turn with enough love -- I would say cowardice -- in us the unsmote cheek to the smiter. You can't do that! It is against the law of nature. America can't do it. When America's cheek is struck by an enemy, she prepares her army to strike back. The Christian government of America can't do it. The Pope of Rome can't do it. If you and I don't wake up to that knowledge and execute the law of an eye for an eye, we might as well be dead and forgotten.
13 It is better for you and me to just go and commit suicide than for the enemy to come in our homes and drag us down, drag our daughters out, beat, lynch. and rape them while we stand by looking. If you and I are deprived of justice, if the federal government will not punish our murderers and our rapers. I say to you. we must get together and find someway to punish them ourselves! In the case of a recent lynching in Mississippi, the government agents spent a lot of time trying to find the lynched body to show that he had been lynched. It would have been easier to find the murderers than the dead body. According to the papers, that is all you and I have to go by, the government knows the lynchers. But since finding the lynchers -- according to the papers -- they have turned the lynchers over to the judges of their own native state and court then they will be freed. As all the other lynchers of our people have been freed.
14 We have come to the point where we must find justice for ourselves or commit suicide. What good is your life and my life if we have no protection? If I were a Black woman, and my men were such cowards that they would not try and defend me and the children I had produced, I would get a shotgun and kill myself. This is nothing but right. This thing has come to a point of explosion. I am your brother. Your hurt is my hurt. It doesn't make any difference with me what religion you are as long as you are a Black man or a member of the darker people. You and I are brothers. Your hurt is my hurt. How many years have you been frightened? "Keep your mouth shut. Don't say that. It is not time." When is it going to get time for you to speak up for yourselves? You can't blame the government for not giving you anything when you are not asking for anything. The only thing that you are pleading for is a job. Is it not true that John Hawkins, the slave trader of our people, brought you and me here for just the purpose of working for the white man? He didn't bring you here to make you the white mans equal. It is certainly evident by now that it was never intended that you be a full citizen, owner or a significant office holder in America. Your role was that of a slave. Today, even though four hundred years have elapsed, that intent underlies your role in the American body politic.
15 How pathetic a sight many of us make as we boas of our meager education and the attainment of a measure of economic growth! All these things are are illusion. When rightly viewed, your education has been designed by your oppressors with the specific intent of keeping you in servitude. Your economic growth has been achieved by installment buying which is now clearly shown to be a Banger's rope about the neck of the Blackman. Our oppressors own and control everything. We have nothing. What, then, is the basis of our vaunted and foolish pride? Something must be wrong upstairs. I ask you how in the name of common sense can we be satisfied with our roles of servitude and as the helpless victims of injustice? If we have simple intelligence and love for our fellowmen we must sound the alarm and let the world know we are not satisfied. We must shake off the dead, dumb and blind shackles that have beset us for generations and move toward unity of our kind. This is the truth. The truth hurts. I will speak it or die. I am not afraid to die for truth indeed. I did not take this mission to try and save my life. I took the mission to fulfill truth even at the cost of death. We must unite at all costs. Once united, we must stand fully packed as a wall against injustice. If your brother does not want to unite with you, then you must teach him, cajole him, urge him, and persuade him by all methods available until he realizes that he, too, must give his all on the altar of justice. For what if ten million of us die in the process, the remaining seven million or more of us will enjoy freedom, justice and equality!
16 Allah is sufficient for all our needs. This is why I do not have to beg from our oppressors or march on their Capitol with my hat in my hand. For how can I on one hand preach the doom of the oppressive system and then with the other hand ask alms of the oppressor. Allah is our God. We are His Blessed. He has given all the world to us if we would but first give our all to Him. I met with Allah as Moses met with Jehovah. Allah has revealed the truth unto me. It is up to you to believe it or let it alone. But this does not negate the fact that I know the end of it all. I know tomorrow. I would be happy to tell it to you if you will believe it. I want you to know that our oppressors are exerting every effort to prevent you and me from uniting. They do not want a united Negro, they do not want an Islamic so-called Negro. They know that Islam frees Black men from fear. As a result, it sets the oppressor's teeth on edge. The power of Islam ins best seen when compared to the failure of Christianity.
17 First, Christianity has failed you because it was the religion which first placed you in slavery. Secondly, Christianity has failed you because through its doctrine of turning the other cheek it has rendered you incapable of defending yourself in the hour of peril. Thirdly, Christianity has failed you because it has caused you to forsake the pursuit of justice in this world in the pursuit of an illusory and nonexistent justice beyond the grave. Now, my beloved, you are faced with the same problem that beset Moses and the children of Israel during the era of the Egyptian captivity. Pharaoh did not want Moses to preach the religion of Jehovah in Egypt because Pharaoh knew such preaching would bring damnation to his wicked kingdom. So it is that your oppressors did not want you to hear the gospel of the Black man. They know that this gospel will one day be their undoing. Pharaoh did not want Moses to call the Jews to the wall to wail at sundown. He knew that once the Jews were united in the name of the religion of their fathers they would no longer abide in slavery with a docile air. Pharaoh did not want Moses to teach the gospel of justice on this side of the grave. He knew that once the Jews determined in their hearts to seek justice here and now they would rise up and demand a place in the sun.
18 So, then, it is with us. Our oppressors are determined to keep our eyes in the sky while they control the land under our feet. They are determined to bog us down in an impractical ethic of turning the other cheek, the better that they may smite our cheeks and rob our pockets. We must not be deceived by the rush toward integration that has become the theme of the past few years. Just as the Romans were to beware of slave masters hearing integration. Why, I ask you, after four hundred years of murder, rape and slavery, do our oppressors now come waving the olive branch of integration? Is it that they really love us; is it that they are sincerely sorry for their sins and seek restitution? If they love us, then why was there no evidence of this love in the hearts of their forefathers when they sold our forefathers like cattle on the auction block? If they are really seeking to atone, then why do they not offer us some measure of restitution -- an area of this country we can call our own--to the sons and daughters of the embattled? They have not come to this hour because they love us nor is integration a sign that they are sorry for their sins. The blunt fact is, our oppressors see fire coming. They see the handwriting on the wall and know what it means. They would have you believe that the days ahead hold glory for the Christian world.
19 My beloved, I, Elijah Muhammad, who must speak if it kills me and who will die rather than lie, tell you this. I know tomorrow! I know the end of it all! Tomorrow is not heaven for the Christian world! Tomorrow is hell for the Christian world! You have a blind spot because you have not come to the religion of your people. Instead you are weeping and moaning over the death of Jesus two thousand years ago. You are going insane over the preaching of Jesus' life and death. Yet, you don't weep, moan and go insane over the rapes and lynching of your own people in your own time. It is a modern disgrace to see you shouting and having spasms in church over the mistaken notion that God gave His only son to save the Christian world. What a shame! What fool God would give His only son to save the devil? What fool people will give their all in the vain hope that the devil can change his horns and lay down his pitchfork? The religion that has brought us to the brink of destruction is the way of our oppressors. It is not our faith. It is not natural to us. Even more our oppressor cannot follow the very religion he would teach us.
20 I have no alternative but to tell you that there is no life beyond the grave! There is no justice in the sweet bye and bye! Immortality is now, here! We are the blessed of God! We must exert every means to protect ourselves! The message I bring is not for the cowards. Those of you who follow me must be ready to withstand the barbs and insults of those who come to investigate, pry, and claim that our ultimate aim is to undermine the American way of life. We have no such intentions. Our critics know it. There is nothing under the rug or subversive about what I say and teach. It is shouted over the air, in the newspapers, on the street corners. Why, then should you be intimidated by those who seek only to throw fear in your hearts and know what we say is right. How ironic it is that the very people who charge us with disturbing the status quo themselves go around raping, lynching, denying citizens the right to vote and taking to the halls of Congress to call you and me everything from a beast to an amoral entity! Yet they unite with their own kind. They give aid and comfort to their own kind. They bring their common enemy to naught. When then is it so wrong and subversive that you and I unite for the same end?
21 If you listen well, you can hear the screams of a Negro co-ed in Tallahassee as she vainly begs her four white abductors to leave her virtue intact. If you listen a little longer, you can hear the pleas of a Milwaukee Black mother as she begs police to free her six and seven year old daughters from a white abductor who held them captive and took carnal liberties with them for over an hour.
22 These acts of carnage must come to an end. To that end I suggest the following. First, we must discipline our women. If any of them are so blind as to consort with our oppressors, then we must take counsel among ourselves and with her. We must exert every pressure at our command until she will have returned to a state of loyalty to her own. Much of the defection among our women stems from the fact that they have been cajoled into following the oppressors' style when it comes to hair, dress and clothing. These are the badges to sin and cause men to leer and behave lasciviously. If you study the customs and traditions of Islamic countries you will see the proper manner of dress. These are the rules we must lay down and enforce if our women are to receive the respect due them. Of course it must be realized that the oppressor seeks out our women to debase them. There is no real love and affection in his heart for them or us. She but becomes the tool of his pleasure, the object of his scorn. Secondly, we must realize the difference between integration and separation. To integrate with evil is to be destroyed with evil. What we want -- indeed, justice for us, is to be set apart. We want and must insist upon an area in this land that we can call our own, somewhere we can hold our heads with pride and dignity without the continuous harassment's and indignities of our oppressors. Thirdly, we must realize that whereas the Black man in Africa is our brother, our central responsibility is with the Black man here in the wilderness of North America. For us to expend our energies pleading for the cause of Africa is like a blind man pleading that his fellow blind man be given eyes while he continues to stumble in darkness.
23 The solution to all these problems lies in a clear cut understanding of the truth. I have come to bring you that truth. Now, I spell it out so that even the children among you may know the nature of tomorrow. First of all you must know the truth about God and the devil. We, the Black men are of God. Our oppressors whoever they may be are of the devil! Their nature is evil! They are incapable of doing good! Secondly, I must tell you the truth about the day of judgment. You have been taught that one day the dead In God shall rise again. You have taken that to mean that people will get up from the graveyard and walk about. That is so much nonsense! Properly read, the resurrection means that we, the Black men of North America, will rise from mental death. Realize who we are! Discover who God is! Name the devil for the beast that he is! Then, like Joseph, go on to become master in the land wherein once you were a slave!