Had Malcolm X survived, he might have been a voice of reconciliation between whites and Blacks, said Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III last night in an hour-long lecture at Harvard Divinity School.
"The Black hustler, now reformed prophet and politician, was distinguished by his capacity for change and for action," said Epps to a crowd of approximately 50 last night in a speech entitled "The Rhetoric of Malcolm X and His Conversion."
Epps said he has displayed a long time interest in Malcolm X despite their contrasting views during the civil rights movement.
While the dean supported integration of Black and white populations, Malcolm X based his rhetoric on two "laws of the jungle," the conflict between natural enemies and the survival of the fittest.
"[Malcolm X] urged Black Moslems to adopt a full-fledged violence strategy," said Epps. "Malcolm described himself as the angriest man on earth. I would not wish that state on anyone."
The dean said he invited Malcolm X to speak at Harvard several times during the 60s because the Black leader embodied many of Epps' own struggles with understanding problems in race relations.
"I thought that if white people could only learn to understand why Malcolm X was so angry at them and at the Black people whom he saw as their stooges, they could learn to respect the Black people with whom they share this world," said Epps.
Epps said that Malcolm X was silenced for 90 days by the Black Moslem movement, ostensibly for comments he made about the Kennedy assassination, but in actuality because he posed a threat to Elijah Mohammed, the movement's leader.
Malcolm X's relationship with Mohammed was comparable to the activist's earlier association with the gang leader of a Harlem hustler society, Epps said.
But, while the hustler society Malcolm X was involved in encouraged individuality, "Mohammed insisted that he be relied on and obeyed totally. This caused the contradiction between the equality of the brotherhood and the tyranny of Elijah Mohammed," Epps said.
Epps concluded by saying that Malcolm X will continue to appeal to people because he is part of the "epic saga and myth that record how men and women transform society."