St. Luke’s Alumnus Discovers Long-Lost Malcolm X Speech

Recently, St. Luke’s Alumnus Malcolm Burnley ’08 discovered a Malcolm X speech in the Brown University archives that dates back over 50 years. The discovery of this lost recording was made when Burnley -a past member of the Sentinel Staff -stumbled across a reference to the event in a Brown Student newspaper from the 1960’s.

Malcolm X, 1925-1965

Burnley, an English major, was given an assignment in a Creative Non-Fiction writing course to compose a historical narrative using sources from the Brown University archives. Burnley came across a collection of Brown student newspapers, and upon looking through the compilation, noticed a picture of Malcolm X from 1961. As a part of Mr. Flachsbart’s Revolutionary Writings class, Burnley was exposed to X’s autobiography while still here on the hilltop. With his familiarity on the topic, Burnley launched an impressive journalistic investigation. Little was said about Malcolm X’s visit in this edition, but Burnley soon found that the reason for X’s visit stemmed from an influential essay written by a Brown student named Katherine Pierce. The essay eventually fell into the hands of some of Malcolm X’s close associates, who in turn suggested that he should visit the school. By getting in touch with Pierce, Burnley found out that the recording of this speech had been sent to the Brown University archives almost two years ago.

Malcolm X, a member of the Nation of Islam, played a major role in the Civil Rights movement. In the newly uncovered speech, he argues that black assimilation into white society is futile during an era of such chaos and prejudice. X believed that African-Americans should create and rebuild their own culture and look to create a more universal connection. “This speech is different because it presents a sort of transitional view of Malcolm X’s opinions” tells Burnley. “After his split with the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X shifted his outlook toward more mainstream Sunni Islam ideology. Throughout the Brown University discourse, he devotes a lot of time to talk about Islam in a global context, which definitely seems to fall under some of his later ideas.”

Since the story has been released, Burnley has appeared in over fifteen interviews with various radio programs and newspapers. Burnley continues to receive more information about the visit, and has collected viewpoints and stories of Brown alumni who attended the speech. “I have spoken to over ten different people who witnessed his talk; they, almost universally, described him as a captivating and engaging speaker,” says Burnley. As Burnley’s original class assignment continues to grow, several professors have talked to him about even publishing this story into a book. “Reading the autobiography of Malcolm X when I was at St. Luke’s really changed a lot of things in my life and got me interested in him” says Burnley. “From there, it was easy and exciting to research this story. It is also a little ironic that we both share the same name, something everyone seems to point out.”

In the coming months, Burnley will be graduating from Brown, but his legacy as a journalist will live on in the college, and at St. Luke’s.

-Tommy Champion, Staff Writer

Posted by on March 26, 2012. Filed under School News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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