95 Powerful Malcolm X Quotes On Justice, Education, Truth And The Future

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malcolm x quote

The best Malcolm X quotes solidify his legacy as one of the most prominent leaders of the civil rights movement in 1960s America.

The pain and suffering Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, and his family endured in his early life led him to become a beacon of change.

Though he ultimately fought against racism along with the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X’s tactics were known to be more aggressive as he urged Black people to protect themselves against white supremacy “by any means necessary.”

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After spending years as a leader of the Nation of Islam, before his death, Malcolm X founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity which aimed to fight racism as a whole rather than focusing on fighting white people as a whole.

A Black Muslim assassinated Malcolm X at an Organization of Afro-American Unity rally in 1965.

The method in which he went about his fight for Black Americans wasn’t always popular.

However, these Malcolm X quotes prove why he remains such an integral part of the civil rights movement.

1. “You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.” — Malcolm X

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2. “My alma mater was books, a good library.... I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” — Malcolm X

3. “I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being, first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” — Malcolm X

4. “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” — Malcolm X

5. “People don't realize how a man's whole life can be changed by one book.” — Malcolm X

6. “To me, the thing that is worse than death is betrayal. You see, I could conceive death, but I could not conceive betrayal.” — Malcolm X

7. “If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” — Malcolm X

8. “Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” — Malcolm X

9. “The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” — Malcolm X

10. “So early in my life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.” — Malcolm X

11. “We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.” — Malcolm X

12. “Hence I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.” — Malcolm X

13. “Truth is on the side of the oppressed.” — Malcolm X

14. “If you have no critics you'll likely have no success.” — Malcolm X

15. “It's just like when you've got some coffee that's too black, which means it's too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won't even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep.” — Malcolm X

16. “The ability to read awoke inside of me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.” — Malcolm X

17. “Don't be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn't do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn't know what you know today.” — Malcolm X

18. “To have once been a criminal is no disgrace. To remain a criminal is the disgrace.” — Malcolm X

19. “A wise man can play the part of a clown, but a clown can't play the part of a wise man.” — Malcolm X

20. “Why am I as I am? To understand that of any person, his whole life, from Birth must be reviewed. All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient.” — Malcolm X

21. “How can you thank a man for giving you what's already yours? How then can you thank him for giving you only part of what is yours?” — Malcolm X

22. “I believe that there will be ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don't think it will be based on the color of the skin...” — Malcolm X

23. “We declare our right on this earth...to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.” — Malcolm X

24. “You don't stick a knife in a man's back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you're making progress ... No matter how much respect, no matter how much recognition, whites show towards me, as far as I am concerned, as long as it is not shown to everyone of our people in this country, it doesn't exist for me. — Malcolm X”

25. “We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” — Malcolm X

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26. “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” — Malcolm X

27. “I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don't believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn't want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I'm not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn't know how to return the treatment.” — Malcolm X

28. “I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being — neither white, black, brown, or red; and when you are dealing with humanity as a family there's no question of integration or intermarriage. It's just one human being marrying another human being or one human being living around and with another human being.” — Malcolm X

29. “In fact, once he is motivated no one can change more completely than the man who has been at the bottom. I call myself the best example of that.” — Malcolm X

30. “And just because you have colleges and universities doesn't mean you have education.” — Malcolm X

31. “You don't have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being.” — Malcolm X

32. “It’s good to keep wide-open ears and listen to what everybody else has to say, but when you come to make a decision, you have to weigh all of what you’ve heard on its own, and place it where it belongs, and come to a decision for yourself; you"ll never regret it. But if you form the habit of taking what someone else says about a thing without checking it out for yourself, you’ll find that other people will have you hating your friends and loving your enemies.” — Malcolm X

33. “You get your freedom by letting your enemy know that you'll do anything to get it. Then you'll get it. It's the only way you'll get it.” — Malcolm X

34. “Despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.” — Malcolm X

35. “As long as you are convinced you have never done anything, you can never do anything.” — Malcolm X

36. “One day, may we all meet together in the light of understanding.” — Malcolm X

37. “If you don't stand for something you fall for everything.” — Malcolm X

38. “There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.” — Malcolm X

39. “I was going through the hardest thing, also the greatest thing, for any human being to do; to accept that which is already within you, and around you.” — Malcolm X

40. “America's greatest crime against the black man was not slavery or lynching, but that he was taught to wear a mask of self-hate and self-doubt.” — Malcolm X

41. “I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.” — Malcolm X

42. “I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he's wrong, than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil.” — Malcolm X

43. “Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. You don't need anything else.” — Malcolm X

44. “History is a people's memory, and without a memory, a man is demoted to the lower animals.” — Malcolm X

45. “All of us — who might have probed space, or cured cancer, or built industries — were, instead, black victims of the white man’s American social system.” — Malcolm X

46. “It is only after the deepest darkness that the greatest joy can come.” — Malcolm X

47. “Any time you beg another man to set you free, you will never be free. Freedom is something that you have to do for yourselves.” — Malcolm X

48. “Without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world.” — Malcolm X

49. “It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That’s the only thing that can save this country.” — Malcolm X

50. “Truth does not change, only our awareness of it.” — Malcolm X

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51. “When ghetto living seems normal, you have no shame, no privacy.” — Malcolm X

52. “When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that he will not do to acquire that freedom. Whenever you hear a man saying he wants freedom, but in the next breath he is going to tell you what he won’t do to get it, or what he doesn’t believe in doing in order to get it, he doesn’t believe in freedom. A man who believes in freedom will do anything under the sun to acquire . . . or preserve his freedom. — Malcolm X

53. “It is only after slavery and prison that the sweetest appreciation of freedom can come. ” — Malcolm X

54. “True Islam taught me that it takes all of the religious, political, economic, psychological, and racial ingredients, or characteristics, to make the Human Family and the Human Society complete.” — Malcolm X

55. “Yes, I’m an extremist. The black race… is in extremely bad condition. You show me a black man who isn’t an extremist and I’ll show you one who needs psychiatric attention!” — Malcolm X

56. “Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American.” — Malcolm X

57. “Power never takes a back step – only in the face of more power. ” — Malcolm X

58. “We black men have a hard enough time in our own struggle for justice, and already have enough enemies as it is, to make the drastic mistake of attacking each other and adding more weight to an already unbearable load.” — Malcolm X

59. “A new world order is in the making, and it is up to us to prepare ourselves that we may take our rightful place in it.” — Malcolm X

60. “Speaking like this doesn’t mean that we’re anti-white, but it does mean we’re anti-exploitation, we’re anti-degradation, we’re anti-oppression.” — Malcolm X

61. “If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women and black children and black babies and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent abroad in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.” — Malcolm X

62. “In all our deeds, the proper value and respect for time determines success or failure.” — Malcolm X

63. “Black people are fed up with the dillydallying, pussyfooting, compromising approach that we’ve been using toward getting our freedom. We want freedom now, but we’re not going to get it saying ‘We Shall Overcome.’ We’ve got to fight until we overcome.” — Malcolm X

64. “I want Dr. King to know that I didn’t come to Selma to make his job difficult. I really did come thinking I could make it easier. If the white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be more willing to hear Dr. King.” — Malcolm X

65. “The real names of our people were destroyed during slavery. The last name of my forefathers was taken from them when they were brought to America and made slaves, and then the name of the slave master was given, which we refuse, we reject that name today and refuse it. I never acknowledge it whatsoever.” — Malcolm X

66. “Children have a lesson adults should learn, to not be ashamed of failing, but to get up and try again. Most of us adults are so afraid, so cautious, so ‘safe,’ and therefore so shrinking and rigid and afraid that it is why so many humans fail. Most middle-aged adults have resigned themselves to failure.” — Malcolm X

67. “My black brothers and sisters — of all religious beliefs, or of no religious beliefs — we all have in common the greatest binding tie we could have. We are all black people!” — Malcolm X

68. “In any organization, someone must be the boss. If it’s even just one person, you’ve got to be the boss of yourself.” — Malcolm X

69. “You can’t legislate goodwill — that comes through education.” — Malcolm X

70. “Times change so quickly that if you and I don’t keep up with the times, we’ll find ourselves with an umbrella in our hand, over our head, when the sun is out. Or we’ll find ourselves standing in the rain, with the umbrella inside the door.” — Malcolm X

71. “As long as you’re fighting on the level of civil rights, you’re under Uncle Sam’s jurisdiction. You’re going to his court expecting him to correct the problem. He created the problem. He’s the criminal. You don’t take your case to the criminal; you take your criminal to court.” — Malcolm X

72. “If you are in a country that is progressive, the woman is progressive. If you’re in a country that reflects the consciousness toward the importance of education, it’s because the woman is aware of the importance of education. But in every backward country you’ll find the women are backward, and in every country where education is not stressed its because the women don’t have education.” — Malcolm X

73. “They cripple the bird‘s wing, and then condemn it for not flying as fast as they.” — Malcolm X

74. “Segregation is that which is forced upon an inferior by a superior. Separation is done voluntarily by two equals.” — Malcolm X

75. “Hatred and anger are powerless when met with kindness.” — Malcolm X

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76. “Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression.” — Malcolm X

77. “A man curses because he doesn’t have the words to say what’s on his mind.” — Malcolm X

78. “Time is more important to me than distance.” — Malcolm X

79. “No man has believed perfectly until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” — Malcolm X

80. “American society makes it next to impossible for humans to meet in America and not be conscious of their color differences. And we both agreed that if racism could be removed, America could offer a society where rich and poor could truly live like human beings….The white man is not inherently evil, but America’s racist society influences him to act evilly. The society has produced and nourishes a psychology which brings out the lowest, most base part of human beings.” — Malcolm X

81. “Why, when all of my ancestors are snake-bitten, and I’m snake-bitten, and I warn my children to avoid snakes, what does that snake sound like accusing me of hate-teaching?” — Malcolm X

82. “And concerning anything in this society involved in helping Negroes, the federal government shows an inability to function. But it can function in South Vietnam, in the Congo, in Berlin, and in other places where it has no business. But it can’t function in Mississippi.” — Malcolm X

83. “Armed with the knowledge of our past, we can with confidence charter a course for our future. Culture is an indispensable weapon in the freedom struggle. We must take hold of it and forge the future with the past.” — Malcolm X

84. "Either you are a citizen or you are not a citizen at all. If you are a citizen, you are free; if you’re not a citizen you are a slave.” — Malcolm X

85. “Once you change your philosophy, you change your thought pattern. Once you change your thought pattern, you change your — your attitude. Once you change your attitude, it changes your behavior pattern and then you go on into some action.” — Malcolm X

86. “Change is only a good thing if you change in a good way.” — Malcolm X

87. “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” — Malcolm X

88. “He said, one time, that no true leader burdened his followers with a greater load than they could carry, and no true leader sets too fast a pace for his follows to keep up.” — Malcolm X

89. “Anytime you find someone more successful than you are, especially when you're both engaged in the same business — you know they're doing something that you aren't.” — Malcolm X

90. “You will never catch me with a free fifteen minutes in which I'm not studying something I feel might be able to help the black man.” — Malcolm X

91. “I came here to tell the truth — and if the truth condemns America, then she stands condemned!” — Malcolm X

92. “Men are attracted by spirit. By power men are forced. Love is engendered by spirit. By power anxieties are created.” — Malcolm X

93. “Mankind's history has proved from one era to another that the true criterion of leadership is spiritual.” — Malcolm X

94. “Where the really sincere white people have got to do their “proving” of themselves is not among the black victims, but out on the battle lines of where America’s racism really is—and that’s in their own home communities; America’s racism is among their own fellow whites. That’s where the sincere whites who really mean to accomplish something have got to work.” — Malcolm X

95. “Sometimes, I have a dared dream to myself that one day, history may even say that my voice — which disturbed the white man's smugness, and his arrogance, and his complacency — that my voice helped to save America from a grave, possibly even a fatal catastrophe.” — Malcolm X

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Micki Spollen is an editor, writer, and traveler. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her travels on her website.