Malcolm X Liberation U. topic of new book
The Malcolm X Liberation University was one of the topics discussed during a meet the author session Sunday afternoon with professor and author Richard D. Benson II, Ph.D.
Sponsored by the Durham County Library and the Hayti Heritage Center, the session included a preview of Benson’s soon to be released book “Fighting for Our Place in the Sun: Malcolm X and the Radicalization of the Black Student Movement, 1960-1973.”
Benson said that his interest in the famed civil rights leader began well before college, when he was 6 years old with a picture of Malcolm X that his mother had hanging in their home.
“He’s so serious,” Benson said he thought of the man in the photo.
Benson began researching Malcolm X as a hobby and by the time he was a teaching assistant working on his master’s degree he was able to fully take advantage of a professor’s assignment of teaching a class. As he began working on “Fighting for Our Place in the Sun” Benson said that he “really wanted to tap into how Malcolm X, why Malcolm X was still so relevant.”
His book delves into the connection between study and protest, noting that, “there is no movement without education” and that “they had a political component" that allowed them to hone their skills as orators and scholars.
Benson explained that his research traced the genealogy of activism and he was able to see “black power shifting back South.”
Looking at the student movement in his novel, Benson examines the Malcolm X Liberation University as a manifestation of the radicalism within the student groups.
MXLU survived four years and was forced to close its doors in 1973 due to the lack of sufficient funding streams, Benson said, with the Durham campus located on Pettigrew Street.
Benson added that the rapid expansion of MXLU programming resulted in a general neglect of the grassroots organizing that made the school possible and ultimately led to its demise.
During his presentation Benson also showed a clip of African Liberation Day in 1962 and Howard Fuller speaking to a crowd on the massive show of African solidarity of the day. Fuller was one of the student volunteers in Durham and the founder of MXLU.
The school’s founding was partially the result of student protests over the lack of an African-American studies program at Duke University. The initial funding for the school came from the church and placed an emphasis on Africa and building the black community.