‘If I weren’t out here every day battling the white man, I could spend the rest of my life reading,’ the unedited quote read
The University of Rhode Island began work to remove an abbreviated Malcolm X quote that celebrates reading books from the front of its library, decades after protesting students claimed it distorted the leader’s message.
In its place, blank granite panels will be installed on the library’s walls.
The inscription on the facade of Robert L. Carothers Library, installed in 1992, was meant as a tribute, a March 10 URI news release stated.
Nonetheless, it prompted a “takeover” that year “by Black student leaders, who said it misrepresented the fuller meaning” of Malcolm X’s life and work, according to URI.
“My alma mater was books, a good library … I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity,” the inscription read, taken from “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
That version omits a stronger statement, however. The unredacted version reads:
I told the Englishman that my alma mater was books, a good library. Every time I catch a plane, I have with me a book that I want to read—and that’s a lot of books these days. If I weren’t out here every day battling the white man, I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity—because you can hardly mention anything I’m not curious about.
The Black Student Leadership Group led an occupation of the university’s Taft Hall in response to the abbreviated engraving, URI stated. That occupation inspired a 30-year reunion last November and a recent documentary.
“Malcolm X was an African American leader and major figure in the Nation of Islam who promoted race pride and Black nationalism in the early 1960s,” according to Britannica.
He “criticized the mainstream civil rights movement, challenging Martin Luther King, Jr.’s central notions of integration and nonviolence,” the encyclopedia stated. “In contrast to King’s strategy of nonviolence, civil disobedience, and redemptive suffering, Malcolm urged his followers to defend themselves ‘by any means necessary.'”
Students took issue with the Malcolm X inscription three decades ago, but it was left intact on the library until this month.
“The removal of this inscription started 30 years ago, when a group of URI students had the courage to stand up and speak out against injustices happening at that time,” URI President Marc Parlange stated in the university news release.
Parlange had pledged during the reunion to remove the inscription.
“Our University is grateful to those students for their courage, and I am grateful to today’s generation of student leaders who, advocating in that same spirit, continue to inspire our ongoing work to foster a truly inclusive and equitable community,” Parlange said.
IMAGE: University of Rhode Island