The U.S., Cuba, Slavery and Jim Crow feat. Gerald Horne

The Groundings podcast episode titled “The U.S. and Cuba during Slavery and Jim Crow” features a conversation between host Musa Springer and historian Dr. Gerald Horne. The discussion centers around Dr. Horne’s book, “Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow,” which explores the complex historical and political relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, particularly during the eras of slavery and Jim Crow.

Dr. Horne explains that his interest in the Cuban Revolution and its significant role in Africa, particularly in defeating the Apartheid military in Southern Angola and Northern Namibia, inspired him to write the book. He delves into the deep-rooted connections between the U.S. and Cuba, tracing back to the 1790s when U.S. nationals were instrumental in the enslavement of Africans in Cuba. He also discusses the U.S.’s ambitions to incorporate Cuba as a state in the early 19th century.

The conversation further explores the impact of the Haitian Revolution on the system of chattel slavery, causing a general crisis that could only be resolved with its collapse; Dr. Horne explains that this event significantly influenced the triangular relationship between Cuba, Haiti, and the U.S. The discussion also highlights the role of Texas in promoting Cuba as a slave society and the subsequent increase in Cuba’s African population.

Dr. Horne emphasizes the resistance of the enslaved Africans, including arson, poisonings, and murder, which he argues indicates a socioeconomic system as stable as nitroglycerin. The conversation concludes with a discussion on the connection between the Confederacy and Cuba, where many U.S. slave owners fled to continue the practice of slavery, the later return of their descendants to the U.S. following the Cuban Revolution, and the continuing of this racist historical legacy through the 60+ year long U.S. imperialist blockade of Cuba.

Episode Title: The U.S. and Cuba during Slavery and Jim Crow, Feat. Dr. Gerald Horne 


Musa Springer

Dr. Gerald Horne

Malcolm X

Musa (00:00):

All right, we’re recording. Welcome everybody to another episode of the Groundings Podcast. Salam alaykum. My name is Musa, your host as always, and I’m joined here with the formidable, the people’s historian, the GOAT himself, Dr. Gerald Horne. How are you doing today, Gerald?

Dr. Horne (00:54):

Hey, it’s all good.

Musa (00:55):

All right. Today we have him here to discuss a book about Cuba that I got the chance to read while in Cuba, so it felt extra special and extra relevant. Dr. Horne, I wanted to discuss your book, Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow, which was published in 2014. I’m wondering, first if you could sort of tell me what inspired you to write this book and what were some of the thinking that went into it when you first began the research?

Dr. Horne (01:24):

Well, like many, I’ve been inspired by the Cuban Revolution, not least this formidable rule in Africa, for example, the defeating of the Apartheid military in Southern Angola, Northern Namibia, particularly the battle of Cuito Cuanavale. And going back to the origins of the revolution 1959, its assistance to Algerian revolutions, particularly after independence of Algeria in 1962. And being a person who lives in the United States and has studied the United States, I was well familiar with the connections between the United States and Cuba. 

As I discuss in the book, as early as the 1790s, that is to say shortly after the formation of this nation now known as the United States of America, U.S. nationals were in the vanguard of bringing enslaved Africans or bringing Africans to be enslaved in Cuba. And there had been a lot of chatter in the United States in the first few decades of the 19th Century about incorporating Cuba as a state of the United States of America. So those factors amongst others, inspired me to dig into this research. 

And of course, it’s also part of a larger project—a larger project being, looking at the Haitian Revolution, for example, looking at what has been termed a revolution in North America, which I have termed a counter-revolution of 1776; looking at the monumental transformation in Southern Africa in the 20th century, culminating with South African independence in 1994; looking at Kenya’s struggle against settler colonialism, culminating in independence in 1963. In other words, this is part of a larger kind of Pan-African revolutionary project, if you like, and you can’t not tackle that kind of project without at least touching upon the Cuban Revolution.

Musa (03:41):

I appreciate that context, and I, for one, always say the Cuban Revolution was an African revolution, and I think that your book helps give me a leg to stand on when I make that claim. Despite the history and culture between Cuba and the Florida coast or Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean, dating back hundreds of years to the natives, even before the colonizers arrived, most people here in the U.S. when they think of Cuba, they only know maybe the last hundred years if we’re lucky. And even then, the majority might only know Cuba as from 1959 onward. And so I’m wondering if you can give me just like a basic history or backdrop between these Cuba and U.S. relationships, when that relationship turned significant and then as it dovetails into enslavement. 

Dr. Horne (04:30):

Well, you may know that a few years ago I published this book on the 16th Century, and that book on the 16th Century has a lot with regard to the relationship between what’s called Florida and the Florida Streets and Cuba. Because one of the points I’m trying to make in that book is that the Spanish colonizers should be distinguished to a degree from their English counterparts. That is to say, as I said in the book, the 16th century has gotten a lot of attention; this phrase, that the Spanish colonizers probably took religion too seriously. That is to say that they were willing to entertain the idea of conquistadors—conquerors—of African descent if they professed Catholicism. And so from the inception of the Spanish arriving in the Caribbean on the island, in fact, approximately 500 or so odd years ago, you had a different relationship with regard to people of African descent than in what becomes the United States. Now, of course, you had enslaved Africans as well, and one of the points I make is that to a degree, Spanish colonialism in Cuba anticipated what we have in the United States, where on the one hand you have a handful of black billionaires, and you have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in jail, in the prison industrial complex working for next to nothing. 

And so that particular relationship, in a sense accelerates in 1565 with the arrival of the Spanish in what they call Florida. Of course, they had arrived in Cuba decades earlier. And Florida has been under Spanish rule longer than it has been under U.S. rule; been under U.S. rule from about 1820, 1821 till today, which is about 200 years—and under Spanish rule for the most part, because there’s a London Interregnum in the 18th century, but for the most part from 1565 to 1820. And so this relationship has colored and marked the larger relationship between Cuba and the United States. 

Of course, when you had the Haitian Revolution, 1791 to 1804, it helped to create a triangular relationship between Cuba, Haiti, and the United States. That is to say that with the enslavers fleeing for their lives from what was called Hispaniola, mostly Haiti, many of them arrived in Cuba, many of them arrived in New Orleans, many of them arrived in Norfolk. And that helps to create this triangular relationship as well. And we have not even touched upon the question of slave revolts in Cuba, which were ubiquitous and stormy, nor have we mentioned the close relationship between black people on both sides of the Florida streets, which you can still witness if you read, for example, the work of the late great abolitionist Martin Delany, who wrote about this relationship in a novel, Blake, from which I quote in my book. So there’s a lot to discuss with regard to Cuba and its relationship in the United States with regard to black people on both sides of the Florida streets with regard to the triangular relationship between Haiti, Cuba and the United States. And of course, the relationship between revolution and Counter-Revolution.

Musa (08:36):

And I know that one of the points that you make pretty early on in the book, I think in the introduction even is that essentially when Washington took over the role of the Spanish on the island, they began to influence and promote slavery on the island at an accelerated rate with states such as Texas playing a very fundamental role in this. And I know you just recently published a book on Texas, and it’s very fascinating how Texas is a reoccurring theme in so much of your work. And so I’m wondering if you could speak more specifically about that. If I’m reading the history correctly, it appears that there was a general anxiety among the slave-owning class around growing abolitionist movements across Europe in conjunction with growing revolts of the enslaved with revolts like the Haitian Revolution, obviously. And so this provokes this idea of selling so many slaves to Cuba, and Washington in turn plays a role in promoting Cuba as a slave society. Could you speak about that relationship a little bit? 

Dr. Horne (09:48):

Well, the Haitian Revolution, to repeat, is the key; 1791 to 1804, because that ignites a general crisis of the entire slave system that can only be resolved with its collapse. It totally upsets the chess board. A new game has to be played once you have the Haitian Revolution, because once you have a sovereign black government, they can then begin to negotiate with other sovereign governments. Obviously, London fields, that is cash cow, that is Jamaica—not to mention its other so-called possessions, speaking of Barbados, for example—were in jeopardy because like revolutionaries anywhere and everywhere, the Haitian revolutionaries wanted to spread their gospel. And nearby was Cuba and Jamaica. 

And so London realizes early on that the jig is up and it moves to curtail the importation of enslaved Africans into Jamaica, circa 1807, abolishing slavery circa 1833. Then that sharpens contradictions between London and Washington for various reasons. London then begins to intervene to try to prevent Washington from bringing more enslaved Africans into the United States, which would only strengthen the hand of this rival having more access to free labor. 

But alas, what happens is that in 1836, you have another counter-revolution, speaking of the secession of Texas from Mexico. Recall that in the years preceding 1836, a Mexico under a president of African descent—speaking of Vicente Guerrero. I once again reference our earlier discussion about the differing relationship to black people in Spanish colonialism versus Anglo colonialism. And when Mexico moves to abolish slavery, it effectively joins the ranks of Haiti, effectively joins the ranks of abolitionism which causes Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and the other so-called Anglo settlers who had moved into Texas, and then ostentatiously, bequeathed their names to these cities, including the one that I’m now sitting in—speaking of Houston, Texas. And they revolted just like 1776, I’ve argued, was a pro-slavery revolt. And just like the United States, when it energetically joined the rank of enslavers. 

By the 1840s, United States was the major force in smuggling Africans into slavery in Brazil, the largest market of all. It was beginning to be challenged by Texas—the Republic of Texas in existence from 1836 to 1845 as an independent country. Unsurprisingly, during that time, the African slave trade attains jet propulsion because the lone star flag could be found off the coast of Angola, off the coast of Brazil, and of course, off the coast of Cuba with relatives of Thomas Jefferson himself being masterminds of the trade in enslaved Africans to Cuba. Interestingly enough, as I point out in the book, you have these U.S. so-called diplomats who have a side line, a profitable side hustle, as being smugglers of enslaved Africans, for example. But what happens is that the Texas Republic, independent Texas, could not take the heat from revolutionary Haiti, from British abolitionists. So they fold up their tent and entered the United States of America in 1845 as a 28th U.S. state where they have been ever since. Although of course, there are rumblings as we speak about Texas seceding from the United States, just as it seceded from Mexico.

Musa (13:54):

I find it so fascinating, like I said earlier, that Texas is so recurrent in this history because today in what we would maybe call counter-progressive politics and movements, Texas continues to play a monumental role. It’s just fascinating the way history repeats itself in such a manner. And there’s an excerpt that I want to read, and you say, “Surely Washington played an instrumental role in the development of Cuba as a slave society”. And then fast forwarding a little bit, you continue, “Texas whose independence was driven in no small part by a desire to escape in abolitionist Mexico quickly developed a major slave trade with Cuba. And in that sense, the lone star on the flags of both was more than coincidental, for the astonishing increase in Cuba’s African population during the decades leading up to 1865 was a function to a sizable degree of its tie to Texas”. 

And so in this regard, there’s such an exportation of the process of enslavement to Cuba and other places, but it’s actually creating an interior sort of change in Cuba’s population and where you now have like an exponential growth of the African population. And you mentioned earlier, resistance of the enslaved. And this might be a dumb question, forgive me, but does this massive increase in more and more Africans—who you know are also African men in majority—play a significant role in the increase in what we see of slave revolts, not just following the Haitian revolution, but then later post 1845 when we have Texas enter the picture?

Dr. Horne (15:37):

It certainly does. And with regard to slave revolts, or speaking more broadly of the resistance of the enslaved, you have to incorporate a number of categories. You have to incorporate arson, for example, which was a favored pool of the enslaved—enslaved women in particular. You have to include poisonings, which was a favorite tool of the enslaved—enslaved women, not least, who could fairly be called ethnobotanists, in the sense that they oftentimes were aware of various properties of vegetation that could be mixed into the food of the enslavers, giving them minimally indigestion and maximally death. And of course, you have to include murder. And there were many reasons for the enslaved to murder their enslavers. That should be obvious, not only because of the random quotidian exploitation, but also as quite a bit of recent research has suggested, the sexual violence that was visited upon the enslaved—men and women alike, by the way—was monumental and horrific. And in fact, oftentimes to close the circle, you would have arson visited upon the residences of the enslaved, where the enslaved criminals would be burned to a crisp, that is to say arson leading to murder. And perhaps there was a dash of a poison in their bloodstream before they perished. 

And this obviously indicates a socioeconomic system that is as stable as nitroglycerin. It’s highly unstable. In fact, it’s a system that’s rife for exploitation by foreign antagonists of the enslavers. That is to say that Britain in particular, was oftentimes in collaboration, cooperation with the enslaved in North America, particularly during the war of 1812. And so this system was so volatile that it was virtually destined to explode, which it does in the United States by 1865—of course, in Cuba a few decades later. But you may recall that I began the book on Cuba by talking about the U.S. Civil War 1861 to 1865. And how many of the enslavers in an attempt to continue their inhumane system were seeking to flee with their enslaved property in tow to Cuba, 90 miles from the shores of the United States, which suggests that there might be those of us in the United States who have distant relatives on the island to this very day. You might take a trip to Cuba and see a person, and you feel like you’re looking in a mirror. And that’s not a coincidence, that’s not happenstance. It may be some long lost relative, which is of course, a function of this inhumane system of slavery combined with capitalism. Two of the more gross violations of humanity known to human beings to this point are mixed together in a toxic cocktail.

Musa (19:17):

You kind of touched on my next one. You mentioned that many slave owners from the U.S., in a sense, fled to Cuba to continue the practice, and importantly, to continue reaping the spoilers and the benefits and the sort of monetary incentives as well of the system. It’s often noted that in Cuba, it was one of the most violent and brutal places for enslaved Africans in the Americas, in the Western Hemisphere. And equally important is that it was one of, if I’m not mistaken, the last to relinquish the system of slavery. And you note at one section in your book, this connection between the Confederacy and Cuba, and you sort of just alluded to it as well. 

To bring that up to date a little bit, there’s this connection where you had people who’ve fled to continue the practice of slavery from the Confederacy to Cuba, and then following when the Batista regime is embattled with Castro, and then the revolution takes place now close to a century later, many of those same descendants, racist plantation owners, factory owners at this point now, whose mechanisms of capitalist colonial accumulation have grown more sophisticated—many of those same descendants and families may have or did flee and return to the U.S., to Miami and to the southern coast. And so I’m wondering if you can speak a little bit about that nexus for a moment. I kind of like to call it the diaspora of Gusanos at this point, but I’m wondering if you could maybe talk about that point.

Dr. Horne (20:56):

Well, what’s remarkable is that we in the United States need to recognize that “race” is not defined everywhere the way it’s defined in the United States in terms of the so-called one-drop, which obviously it broadens the base for enslavement. If you could drag an Irish immigrant off a boat and convince the authorities that actually he’s trying to pass, he is actually black, and then you can enslave them and make money. And we all know—at least I assume we know—that the way race is defined in South Africa, for example, with the existence of a so-called colored population; the way that race is defined in Brazil, the various permutations between black and white, as opposed to this great wall that you have in the United States, separating those who were defined as black and those who were defined as white. 

And so during the U.S. Civil War, you had a number of men, Cuban men who were accepted into the hallowed halls of whiteness because they fought to preserve slavery. But after the U.S. Civil War, I talk about the killing in South Carolina of this, what I might call a Euro Cuban, which was part of this upsurge of racist violence perpetrated by these so-called white men from Dixie. But then post 1959, you have another shift because those fleeing the island, given the fact that there’s oftentimes a confluence between race and class, that is to say an absence of melanin can oftentimes be an indicator of class mobility or being closer to the apex of the socioeconomic pyramid. And so disproportionately and overwhelmingly, you saw an influx in South Florida of what might be called Euro Cuban. For example, if you go to the campus of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia… Wait, you’re not in Atlanta, are you?

Musa (22:57):

I am. I’m in Atlanta.

Dr. Horne (22:58):

Okay. You’ve been to Emory’s campus?

Musa (23:00):

A few times, yeah.

Dr. Horne (23:02):

So right on the main drag as you enter to Emory’s campus is the Goizueta School of Business. This is a Cuban American exile from the island who becomes the head of Coca-Cola. And as you know, Coca-Cola is a major funder of both Emory and Atlanta. And of course, he left his fortune to start a business school in his name. And so that’s just one example amongst many of the “success” that many Cubans post ’59 enjoyed in the United States. But as Washington now is ruefully acknowledging when all of these folks left, in a sense, the revolutionary government was able to rid itself of troublemakers, basically, and they were sending them all to the United States. 

And then that leaves on the island a number of people we would call black, for example, who feel indebted to the revolutionary process. Because when the United States arrives, post 1898, delivering a knockout blow to the tottering Spanish empire, they immediately tried to import their unique and provincial morays, including Jim Crow to the island, and generally tried to visit the kinds of horrors that black Americans have become accustomed to upon those who were defined as black in Cuba. Inevitably, this leads to radicalism in Cuba—to get to the crux of the book’s title Race to Revolution. What happens is that, pre 1959, a significant percentage of what you would call the Communist Party, and the leadership in particular was of African descent. 

But in those same decades leading up to 1959, just like you had a severe crackdown in this country on Paul Robeson, the purported ‘Black Stalin’ of the United States, W.E.B. Du Bois joins the Communist Party in 1961, and their comrades likewise on the island where U.S. hegemony was in place in name and otherwise, you had a crackdown on the leadership of what we would call the Communist Party, which then helps to create a vacuum that’s filled by the 26th of July movement. 

Interestingly, my book has been translated into Spanish in Cuba, which I’m happy for, for more reasons than one. I mean, one of course, you write, hopefully so you can be read, and if it’s translated into Spanish, that increases the number of readers. But secondly, I took that, perhaps hopefully correctly, as an endorsement of my thesis that I put forward. But in any case, this rather unique relationship of Cuba to people of African descent, as you know, has continued, as I suggested a moment or two ago of post 1959 with Cuba’s relationship to African liberation struggles in Algeria and Angola, Namibia, South Africa, in particular, culminating in 1994 when Fidel Castro—president Castro—comes to the inauguration of Nelson Mandela and receives the most fulsome applause of any of the dignitaries present, which was emblematic of the recognition in South Africa of the really enormous role that Cuba played in helping to liberate the southern cone of the continent.

Musa (26:43):

I really appreciate your very thorough and detailed answer there. I’m going to ask you a big question to answer it in only two minutes, so forgive me in advance, but first there’s a quote by Walter Rodney that came to mind—when you were speaking about the confluence of class and race—from Groundings with My Brothers. He says, “The association of wealth with whites and poverty with blacks is not accidental. It is the nature of the imperialist relationship that enriches the metropolis at the expense of the colony, i.e. it makes the whites richer and the blacks poorer”. And you paraphrased very similarly that saying that I just wanted to throw that quote out there for listeners.

And my final question on this subject is, if you have any thoughts on the influence of this history as it relates to race and black people, particularly in U.S. and Cuba relations to today with the Blockade—the now going on over 60 years’ Blockade and the total economic information, cultural war the U.S. has waged against Cuba. And how would you connect this history to this current struggle against the Blockade?

Dr. Horne (27:47):

Well, those of us who are familiar with U.S. Haiti relations—and if you’re not, you can consult my book Confronting Black Jacobins—you’ll find an eerie similarity between how the United States treated revolutionary Haiti and how it has treated revolutionary Cuba. Our friends on the left who try to tell us that the United States was this revolutionary project, really have some explaining to do, as they say, to explain why this so-called revolutionary project has been so hostile to truly revolutionary projects that are in the vicinity and in the neighborhood. And with regard to Cuba today, the Blockade has been a horror. It’s been strangling, it’s been asphyxiating. Cuba is having difficulties, but I remain not optimistic. And to bring our discussion up to date, despite what I’ve just referenced—and I can go into detail about the shortages up to and including how on May 1st, 2023, there was no massive mayday parade because of energy problems.

Musa (28:55):

I was there, yes.

Dr. Horne (28:57):

Oh, yeah?

Musa (28:58):

The typical procession for International Workers’ Day, reportedly due to the island’s gas shortages, was completely rearranged and changed. And that’s a very significant thing for the island.

Dr. Horne (29:09):

So you may have been there when the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, arrived on the island after visiting Brazil and Venezuela, and we expect Russian aid to Cuba to accelerate in coming months. What I’ve been hoping for is a visit to the island by President Xi Jinping of China—of course, the relationship between China and Cuba are very good right now after some rough patches, shall we say, during the Cold War period—and the ability of the party and the people to hang on in the midst of this Blockade; that is to say, a country of 330 million versus a country of 11 million, and yet the country of 11 million is not only able to survive, but in certain spheres to thrive. 

I’m thinking of education of African youth, for example, particularly the training of medics on what we call the aisle of youth, for example, which has been going on for decades. In fact, in my will, I’m leaving a bequest to medical schools for the training of Caribbean and African medics and nurses and doctors and the like. In Cuba, it’s been… If you go to certain African countries, particularly in the southern cone, but not only in the southern cone—I’m thinking of Zimbabwe, where I used to live, in particular—a lot of the medical care devolves on the shoulders of either Cuban trained medics, let us say Zimbabweans, or Cubans themselves who come as a result of bilateral agreements. 

So I would urge and encourage the leadership of Black America—speaking of the United States, intellectual leadership, political leadership, et cetera—to vigorously oppose the Blockade, to do so in the halls of Congress, to do so by visiting the island as you just did. Because Cuba has been very important to black liberation historically and will continue to be so.

Musa (31:24):

Absolutely, and I think it goes back to what I said at the top of the interview: Understanding the African identity and nature of the island helps us to understand the harsh, violent backlash it’s received for the last 60 plus years for its revolution. And I’m glad you mentioned education as well. Doctors are the biggest export from Cuba, but people forget, over the last several decades, Cuba has won hundreds of awards from the top global institutes of education for sending educators and helping build public education infrastructure in countries like Nicaragua, Ghana, Venezuela. And so their contribution of doctors is so big at times, it almost overshadows some of their other contributions as well. Well, I appreciate you as always, Dr. Horne, for coming on, this time discussing Cuba. You’re like a walking encyclopedia. It’s always great to get to pick your brain. Any final words, Dr. Horne?

Dr. Horne (32:19):

Well, yes, once again, let me just reiterate the point that I made—my book on the 16th century. Because that’s when it all begins, post 1492, the long 16th century. That’s when the roots are implanted. And I think that if you can understand the 16th century, it goes a long way to understand settler colonialism—the system under which we are now laboring, to understand capitalism, to understand white supremacy. So just a point of personal privilege to definitely link to the book on the 16th century.

[Interviews concludes; audio transition to sound clip from Malcolm X Interview]

Interviewer (33:00):

Let me ask you, Mr. X, why did you visit Fidel Castro this morning? 

Malcolm X (33:06):

Well, you have to understand it like this. Because of the climate that has been produced by the trouble in Africa, in the Congo and Kenya and other places, it has caused a great deal of tension in Harlem. And based on that, some representatives from the 28th Precinct a few weeks ago visited our restaurant, and they were discussing the incidents that stemmed from this tension. And they asked us for suggestions on some of the best ways to combat it. So we suggested that instead of condemning the leaders of these different nationalist groups, that they get all of them together at the Amsterdam News Office, where they have the 28th Precinct Community Council at the Amsterdam News Office—I think it’s once a month. So they took this suggestion. And at this meeting about three or four weeks ago, a sort of a working unity was brought about by the editor of the Amsterdam News and Captain Nunan of the 28th Precinct, and Patrolman Sosus, who handles, I think the public relations or something rather. 

So it was suggested that working with just that element wasn’t sufficient, but to get that element of leaders together with the civic leaders, the business leaders and whatnot, there in Harlem. So last Friday a meeting was held at the Amsterdam News office, presided over by James Hicks, the editor, and Captain Nunan and I think inspector Whelan was there, and Lieutenant Sealey, plus there was Commissioner Dunson of the Department of Welfare and Dr. Alfred Morrow, the ex-commissioner, and John B. King, Reverend Dempsey, the mayor of Harlem, Dr. Allen, Nathan Friedman and Vernell Pemberton, assistant to the superintendent of districts. There was Norman Saunders from the Mayor’s Committee. 

Interviewer (35:11):

I believe you, Mr. X. Go ahead.

Malcolm X (35:12):

Well, alright. I want you to know who was there, so you’ll know why I was in Fidel Castro’s room. Since you want to know, we’ll get the details. So one of the first things that was brought up at this meeting was that there were many African dignitaries being brought to America during the UN session, and that these African dignitaries would want to visit Harlem. And the 28th precinct, or the police department was very concerned that there wouldn’t be a repetition of the incident that took place when President Sekou Toure of Guinea was there. 

So they were asking for suggestions, and it was brought out that one of the primary reasons that this incident took place was because of improper representation on the committee or whatever it was that brought him there. There was just one element involved in the bringing of him there. Therefore, it left a lot of dissatisfied elements and those different ingredients caused the combustion of booing and so forth, that was embarrassing. So it was suggested that a committee be set up, and this committee was supposed to be representative of all of the elements in Harlem: The nationalist elements, the Christian elements, the fraternal elements, the business elements, and so forth. And I was selected on that committee to be responsible for representing and welcoming any dignitary that came to Harlem. And when the meeting was breaking up, I asked Mr. Hicks about how to form the thing together and he said, well, since your name was mentioned, you take the initiative in getting the others together. So then, what night was that? Last night? Monday night we heard that Fidel Castro was coming to the Theresa, which was unbelievable.

Interviewer (37:02):

He had a due bill that didn’t work at the Shelburne.

Malcolm X (37:04):

Well, that’s what somebody said, but I’m inclined not to go along with everything that I hear. So we went to the Theresa, and when we got there, the place was packed, jammed, and there was a lot of confusion and excitement. Now, I would like to state right here that one of the reasons that we were selected, or the Muslims were selected, to be represented on any committee that had anything to do with representing any dignitaries to Harlem is, the police department recognizes the fact that out of all of the groups in Harlem, those who are the most… 

You can’t find a better disciplined group or a more… I don’t care what propaganda you say about us; you can’t find a more disciplined group or a group that’s more law abiding than the followers of the honorable Elijah Muhammad. And you can’t find a group that’s more cooperative with law enforcement officers. And so when this jam occurred there at the Theresa, the police officials… We could never have been in the Theresa, had not the police allowed us there. They put out the reporters, they put out everyone, but they allowed us to stay there because inspector Whelan was at the meeting when this committee was set up. And since he’s responsible for all of the safety of the dignitaries, I think in the 10th division, he let the committee that was selected stay in the Theresa Hotel.

Interviewer (38:23):

Mr. X, I believe you, I still ask the question, what did-

Malcolm X (38:26):

I’m giving you some background. I don’t intend to leave anything out because I’ve had sufficient-

Interviewer (38:31):

We’ve only got two hours. 

Malcolm X (38:32):

I understand.

Interviewer (38:33):

We have other guests, Mr. X. 

Malcolm X (38:34):


Interviewer (38:35):

Democracy is one of the precepts of your organization. 

Malcolm X (38:38):

It is, sir. 

Interviewer (38:39):

Free speech for everyone. 

Malcolm X (38:40):

Yes, sir. But you can take… See, I came because Mr. Kirschenbaum- 

Interviewer (38:44):

I’ve heard of him.

Malcolm X (38:45):

-told me that he wanted an objective report. And I don’t think that… Whenever you are involved with a man as controversial as Dr. Castro, and as controversial as the honorable Elijah Muhammad, you don’t just make statements that you don’t explain, because people take them and twist them and make more out of them than what you mean.

Interviewer (39:05):

I’m listening. So you were at the Theresa.

Malcolm X (39:07):

So we left. After they had brought Dr. Castro, we left. And then we received a call at our restaurant at 116th in Lennox—I got to get that plugged in; best restaurant in New York. 

Interviewer (39:18):

You’ll pay for that, pal.

Malcolm X (39:20):

And they asked us to come to the Theresa Hotel, that Dr. Castro wanted to see us. I was shocked. But we got the committee together and went back. When we went back with the Muslims, the police led us through their lines. We were led by them up to the ninth floor and into Dr. Castro’s room. And he greeted us very cordially, we sat down—the room wasn’t so big, and in fact it was crowded with his entourage. And we were allowed to take in, I think about five—two Negro reporters and a cameraman and four of the brothers. And so that was that.