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Sun, 06.28.1964

The Organization of Afro-American Unity is Formed

*On this date in 1964, Malcolm X announced the establishment of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) at a public meeting in New York's Audubon Ballroom.

The OAAU is a Pan-African organization modeled on the Organization of African Unity, which impressed Malcolm X during his visit to Africa in April and May 1964. The purpose of the OAAU was to fight for the human rights of African Americans and promote cooperation among Africans and people of African descent in the Americas.  He had written the group's charter with John Henrik Clarke, Albert Cleage, Jesse Gray, and Gloria Richardson.  In a memo dated July 2, 1964, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described the nascent OAAU as a threat to the United States national security.

The OAAU charter included this Basic Unity Program:
*Restoration: "In order to release ourselves from the oppression of our enslavers then, it is absolutely necessary for the Afro-American to restore communication with Africa."
*Reorientation: "We can learn much about Africa by reading informative books."
*Education: "The Organization of Afro-American Unity will devise original educational methods and procedures which will liberate the minds of our children. We will ... encourage qualified Afro-Americans to write and publish the textbooks needed to liberate our minds ... educating them [our children] at home."
*Economic Security: "After the Emancipation Proclamation ... it was realized that the Afro-American constituted the largest homogeneous ethnic group with a common origin and common group experience in the United States and, if allowed to exercise economic or political freedom, would in a short period of time own this country. We must establish a technician bank. We must do this so that the newly independent nations of Africa can turn to us, who are their brothers, for the technicians they will need now and in the future."

The OAAU pushed for Black control of every aspect of the Black community. At the founding rally, Malcolm X stated that the organization's principal concern was the human rights of Blacks. It would also focus on voter registration, school boycotts, rent strikes, housing rehabilitation, and social programs for addicts, unwed mothers, and troubled children.

Malcolm X saw the OAAU as a way of "un-brainwashing" Black people, ridding them of the lies they had been told about themselves and their culture. On July 17, 1964, Malcolm X attended the second meeting of the Organization of African Unity in Cairo as a representative of the OAAU. When a reporter asked whether white people could join the OAAU, Malcolm X said, "Definitely not." Then he added, "If John Brown were still alive, we might accept him.

Malcolm X did not have sufficient time to invest in the OAAU to help it flourish.  After his death, Malcolm X's half-sister, Ella Little-Collins, took over the leadership of the OAAU. Currently, Dr. Leonard Jefferies is the OAAU executive director.

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