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The Night Malcolm X Spoke at the Oxford Union

A Transatlantic Story of Antiracist Protest

Stephen Tuck (Author), Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Foreword)

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Less than three months before he was assassinated, Malcolm X spoke at the Oxford Union—the most prestigious student debating organization in the United Kingdom. The Oxford Union regularly welcomed heads of state and stars of screen and served as the training ground for the politically ambitious offspring of Britain’s "better classes." Malcolm X, by contrast, was the global icon of race militancy. For many, he personified revolution and danger. Marking the fiftieth anniversary of the debate, this book brings to life the dramatic events surrounding the visit, showing why Oxford invited Malcolm X, why he accepted, and the effect of the visit on Malcolm X and British students.

Stephen Tuck tells the human story behind the debate and also uses it as a starting point to discuss larger issues of Black Power, the end of empire, British race relations, immigration, and student rights. Coinciding with a student-led campaign against segregated housing, the visit enabled Malcolm X to make connections with radical students from the Caribbean, Africa, and South Asia, giving him a new perspective on the global struggle for racial equality, and in turn, radicalizing a new generation of British activists. Masterfully tracing the reverberations on both sides of the Atlantic, Tuck chronicles how the personal transformation of the dynamic American leader played out on the international stage.
Photo section follows page 106
Foreword, by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Prologue: A Black Revolutionary Meets Historic Oxford

1. A Life of Travel and Discovery: Malcolm X, 1925–1964
2. Oxford, Britain, and Race, 1870–1964
3. Antiracism Protests in Oxford, 1956–1964
4. The Debate, December 3, 1964
5. After the Debate, 1964–1968

Stephen Tuck is Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford and Director of the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities. He is the author of several books including We Ain't What We Ought to Be: The Black Freedom Struggle from Emancipation to Obama and coauthor of Historians across Borders: Writing American History in a Global Age (UC Press).
"The Night Malcolm X Spoke at the Oxford Union is both a lucid portrait of Malcolm X at the height of his powers and a piercing exploration of the history of race in Britain — one that speaks every bit as much to our present-day circumstances as to the radicalism of 50 years ago."—Christopher Phelps Financial Times
"Tuck has resurrected the story of the British civil rights struggle, as resolute and stirring as the struggle in the US. Read it, be moved and enraged, and ask why antiracism gave up and went to bed."—YASMIN ALIBHAI-BROWN The Independent
"If there is a legacy to be carried from this book, for me it is in the salient need to internationalise our struggles and our histories. Often dominated by American discourses and figures of anti-racist protest, many of the transatlantic connections evident in resistance movements noted in this book have been obfuscated in service of more sanitised historical narratives. . . . The 50th anniversary can be an opportunity to sit back and admire the oratory of Malcolm X, or it can be an opportunity to remind ourselves and re-enforce a cross-border, transnational, transhistorical struggle — just as the Oxford students in the 1960s did."—Mahmoud Ally Oxford Today
"Tuck’s history reads like magazine journalism—packing both a kaleidoscopic, global view of race in the ’60s and a tight, propulsive story of Malcolm X’s December 1964 trip to England shortly before his death." THE BEST BOOKS ABOUT THE VOLATILE 1960s—Scott Porch Daily Beast
"Tuck’s narrative history recounts the “story” . . . of Malcolm’s visit to Oxford, which he does through five well-crafted chapters."—Douglas Field TLS
"Tuck is to be thanked for bringing this important historical moment back to light and, in situating it in its wider context, contributing significantly to our understanding of the transatlantic civil rights movement and Oxford’s particular place within it. . . . the book is a pleasure to read and should prove enjoyable for historians and non-historians alike: it comes highly recommended for no more complicated reason than this."—Mike Joseph The Voice
"Of the great twentieth century debates—William F. Buckley vs. Gore Vidal, Baldwin vs. Buckley, Chomsky vs. Foucault, and others—none was more internationally galvanizing or historically significant than Malcolm X’s stand against Humphrey Berkeley at Oxford. And no one tells it better than Stephen Tuck. His riveting, highly original account traces Malcolm’s evolution from working-class autodidact and Nation of Islam minister to globetrotting pan-Africanist embodying the nexus between decolonization, human rights, and black radicalism. He also trace’s Oxford’s historical transformation from the belly of the English Enlightenment and Britain’s imperial project to the epicenter of struggles for racial justice. In short, not only did Malcolm X bring his most potent anticolonial arsenal, but he stepped into a powder keg. The result is an explosive debate and an explosive book."—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times

"A powerful addition to the Malcolm X literature from the fascinating angle of the Oxford debates, revealing the extraordinary range of his influence around the world. Passionate and objective in equal measure."—Ben Okri, author of The Famished Road and A Time for New Dreams

"In this gripping book, Stephen Tuck tells the unlikely story of how the black radical Malcolm X came to speak to the Oxford Union, the bastion of privilege at the University of Oxford. The speech electrified his audience. Just two months later, he was dead. But as Tuck shows, his words left a legacy of inspiration, not only in the US, but even in Oxford itself. I could not put the book down."—Lyndal Roper, Regius Professor of History, Oxford University

"Stephen Tuck’s splendidly incisive book brings alive a fascinating but little-known episode in Malcolm X’s colorful journey. One extraordinary night in 1964, the most controversial black freedom leader in the world took on the scions of the British establishment at the world’s most prestigious debating society. With careful analysis, clever prose, and a forensic eye for detail, Tuck shows just what that night meant, not only for Malcolm himself, but for Britain—and for America. This book will make you think again—about the racial politics of the 1960s, and about the relationship between the two great Atlantic cousins. It confirms Tuck’s reputation as one of the most brilliant stars in history’s firmament."—Dominic Sandbrook, author of Never Had It So Good: A History of Britain from Suez to the Beatles

"Tuck's in-depth research and perceptive analysis show clearly that debating at the Oxford Union was a major component of Brother Malcolm's determination to internationalize the battle against proponents of terroristic white supremacy/racism in the United States."—A. Peter Bailey, author of Witnessing Brother Malcolm X, founding member of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) and editor of its newsletter

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