Opposite Sides of the Same Coin:
Malcolm X and CORE NYC

This piece is a response to Garrett Felber's recent article in the Guardian naming the second person arrested at the assassination of Malcolm X, a man whose identity has been a source of speculation by scholars for years, as Ray Wood.(1) Wood a.k.a. Ray Woodall was an undercover police officer in the Bureau of Special Services (BOSS). Also known as the 'Red Squad', BOSS was a special department within the New York City Police (NYPD) tasked with monitoring and keeping political activists under surveillance. Wood had infiltrated Bronx CORE, attended Harlem CORE functions, and frequented East River CORE meetings. He was responsible for the arrest of Bronx CORE chairman Herb Callender and testified against East River CORE leader Blyden Jackson in front of the House of UnAmerican Activities Committee.(2) According to documents from the national CORE office, he had also been Bronx CORE's delegate to CORE's national convention.(3)

While in CORE he infiltrated another Black radical group and convinced members to blow up the Statue of Liberty.(4) He tried to convince CORE members to do the same as well as other illegal and violent 'militant' actions at least a year earlier.(5)

Felber's article reminds us that the worlds of Malcolm X and CORE were intertwined. How does the story of Malcolm X intersect with that of CORE and its members here in New York City (NYC)? I argue that Malcolm had a better and closer relationship to CORE than any other civil rights organization primarily due to proximity, availability and mutual appreciation for each other's militancy and dedication, despite differences in basic philosophy. After his assassination and CORE had transitioned into a Black Power organization, Malcolm became the primary influence on its Black members. They were the "children of Malcolm". Malcolm X and his followers were in turn profoundly influenced by CORE.

Close Encounters of the First Kind
Malcolm X was not a civil rights leader as many in the media have labeled him the past few years. As a spokesman for the Nation of Islam (NOI), he was very critical of the civil rights movement. A central tenet of his religion is the belief that White people, who were categorically referred to as devils, were inherently evil. He not only advocated for separation of the races, he quoted the NOI's leader Elijah Muhammad as saying Blacks should have a separate territory in the United States (U.S.) just for themselves. As opposed to asking Whites to be included in their businesses, schools and other institutions, Blacks should open up their own businesses, start their own schools and create their own institutions in general. Non-violent action was seen as not only foolish but dangerous. The NOI advocated the use of violence in self defense, not to be the aggressor but to defend themselves against anyone who attacked them.

Starting in 1954 , Malcolm was the leader of the Nation of Islam's Temple #7 located in Harlem. He and his family lived in Queens.

Starting in the late 1940's CORE's national HQ was in NYC as was much of its national leadership. NYC also had more CORE chapters than any other city and, with perhaps the exception of California, any other state.

Once the New York CORE chapter moved to 125th street in Harlem at the end of 1961 Malcolm X and CORE began to cross paths with increasing frequency.

He and the chapter's chairman Gladys Harrington knew each other well and had a cordial relationship. It was not uncommon for the two to speak on the phone or for him to stop by the Harlem CORE office to speak to her in person. At some of his early events she was the only civil rights leader who dared to attend to show support.

While she had a 'great deal of respect' for Malcolm X she also disagreed with him as noted in a CBS News interview in which she voiced her criticisms of and differences between their organizations.(6) She equated the NOI's idea of separation of the races with segragation, but still acknowledged that both groups essentially wanted 'the same thing', although their methods of achieving it and their solutions were different. She saw the two organizations as assisting one another in that once he got the attention of Black men in particular, CORE would have 'something to offer them', meaning something programmatic to help them achieve the larger goals of the Black freedom movement.

During one of the chapter's regular general meetings in February of 1962, Malcolm X was invited to speak by a member of the chapter's Executive Committee, Edward Mollette. Even though this was supported by Harrington, another member of the Executive Committee, J.W. Franklin, Jr., who was also Black, wrote a letter to the CORE national office to complain. Franklin objected to his presence because his views were contradictory to CORE's philosophy as an interracial organization advocating integration.(7)

White chapter member Joanne Shane remembers Malcolm as being 'extremely vicious' to her during the meeting. At the time she was dating a Black freedom rider Travis Britt. After getting up and confronting Malcolm X about his negative remarks concerning interracial relationships, he replied, "You Jewish girl, what are you doing here, you don't belong here anyway".(8)

>>>> Part 2 <<<<

>>>> footnotes <<<<