Why A Malcolm X Postcard Featured A Photo Of A Chimpanzee

The civil rights era was one of difficult tribulations and racial strife. Black people fought every day to secure basic human rights, all while white nationalists and law enforcement were murdering them in the streets. Of the many civil rights leaders that people know about, Malcolm X is one of the more misunderstood. 

A common perception of Malcolm X is one of a cold rabble-rouser, as said by Smithsonian Magazine, but this is far from the truth. Malcolm X cared deeply about the struggles of black liberation and should be viewed with nuance and complexity. Like any other human being, he had flaws, along with his positive attributes. Among other things in Malcolm X's life, however, was one odd curiosity: a chimpanzee postcard he once sent. 

Sent to comedian Redd Fox in 1964, this chimpanzee postcard has aroused both attention and intrigue on what X exactly meant when he wrote on it (via New York Daily News). But before diving into that matter, one must first know the politics of X, and what he actually fought for. 

Malcolm X spoke and wrote about black freedom

Malcolm X was born in 1925 (as Malcolm Little) and became one of the most well-known civil rights leaders of all time. Depending on what one's beliefs are, the name Malcolm X could stoke admiration or admonishment. Either way, his contributions to the civil rights movement are unarguable. 

According to Britannica, Malcolm X was known within civil rights circles as a charismatic public speaker — someone who could passionately organize people to protest and speak his ideas with fiery determination. Of his many contributions, he helped popularize the terms Black and African American instead of the now taboo words colored and Negro. Malcolm X also believed in achieving freedom "by any means necessary" (via "Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements"). 

This meant that so long as the United States government and white supremacy were committing violence against Black people, they had a right to defend themselves by any means necessary, even violence. Malcolm X believed that the injustices that Black people faced were being ignored and denied on a daily basis, and that to overcome them, they had to be confronted aggressively. 

Malcolm X used a chimpanzee postcard to illustrate the problem of black rights

So, how does all that tie into the chimpanzee postcard that Malcolm X sent his friend Redd Fox? X wrote the following on the postcard: "One hundred years have passed since the Civil War, and these chimpanzees get more recognition, respect & freedom in American than our people do...even the monkeys that lead them have more sense than

the monkeys that lead us" (via Smithsonian Magazine). 

What X meant here was that white America was far more concerned with something harmless and seemingly apolitical, like chimpanzees at a zoo, than they did Black rights. To X, Black people were still being ignored long after the Civil War. This is all made apparent when we consider that the Civil Rights movement fought for basic rights that white people had, like fair housing, the end to segregation, and access to equal facilities that whites could use, as told by History

It seems that X's analogy here was very much correct, given how Black rights were so commonly cast aside during his time, and even to this day.