George Lincoln Rockwell and members of the American Nazi Party attend a Nation of Islam summit

George Lincoln Rockwell and members of the American Nazi Party attend a Nation of Islam summit in 1961 to hear Malcolm X speak

American Nazi Party Commander George Lincoln Rockwell, flanked by two members of the party, listening to Malcolm X’s speech at Black Muslims meeting held at the Uline Arena. This is amazing, very powerful shot. Not just from a historical point of view, but also photographically very strong, you can almost feel the tension. The guy on the left looks like he’s not overly happy to be present, whereas the guys on the middle and right fully believe they’re in the right.

From its inception the ANP (American Nazi Party) had referred to African Americans as “niggers” and had affirmed the premise that they were mentally inferior to whites, but Rockwell became enchanted with the idea of a coalition; Nazis and Black Muslims could be allies, since they both sought the same goal—separation of the races.

On Sunday, June 25, 1961, Rockwell and ten troopers attended a Black Muslim rally at Uline Arena in Washington. They watched in awe as convoys of chartered buses unloaded hundreds of passengers outside the arena and the Muslim vendors made a killing on official souvenirs and literature. The Nazis were frisked at the door of the arena by several well-dressed but stern-looking Fruit of Islam guards—the Gestapo of the Nation of Islam. A special guard greeted Rockwell, said into his walkie-talkie that the “big man was coming now,” and escorted them to seats near the stage in the center, surrounded by eight thousand Black Muslims. They were encircled by black journalists, who wanted to know Rockwell’s thoughts. He told reporters he considered the Muslims “black Nazis.” “I am fully in concert with their program and I have the highest respect for Mr. Elijah Muhammad.” Rockwell pointed out his only disagreement with the Muslims was over territory. ‘‘They want a chunk of America and I prefer that they go to Africa.”

After several introductory speakers, Malcolm X stepped to the microphone to deliver a talk entitled “Separation or Death.” “Muslims are not for integration and not for segregation.” Looking up at the audience as if to beg the question, he asked what they “were for.” The audience shouted “Separation.” Rockwell and the troopers vigorously applauded. Later when the audience was asked for donations, Rockwell contributed $20.

Interesting facts:

  • It’s amazing how people could get away with wearing Nazi symbols a mere 15 years from World War 2. It took a while for people to really understand and grasp the full extent of what the Nazis had done. A lot of the publicity of the Holocaust didn’t become widespread knowledge until after the Eichmann trial, before then, Nazi persecution of Jews was often considered a part of their greater oppression of Europe. After the Eichmann trial, there was a huge rise in publicity of Holocaust stories. Survivors who had not come forward before (due to being spurned for not fighting, or simply too traumatic), saw survivors at the Eichmann trial and were encouraged to share their experiences. Holocaust remembrance took the west by storm, eventually including a surge of films from Hollywood in the early 1970s and the opening of a series of museums. So really it was the post-Eichmann generation who really understood the depth of Nazi cruelty, explaining why people could get away wearing swastikas in the early 1960s. Also it was not until the 1960s that a lot of scholarly research was being done and it was not until the 1990s that all of the Germans archives were actually open to study.
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