Jackie Robinson’s Response to Malcolm X

December 14, 1963
Dear Malcolm:

Frankly, your letter to me in the New York Amsterdam News is one of the things I shall cherish. Coming from you, an attack is a tribute. I am also honored to have been placed in the distinguished company of Dr. Ralph Bunche, whom you have also attacked.

I am proud of my associations with the men whom you choose to call my “white bosses”—Mr. Branch Rickey, my boss at Chock Full O’ Nuts, Mr. William Black, and Governor Nelson Rockefeller. I am also proud that so many others whom you would undoubtedly label as “white bosses,” marched with us to Washington and have been and are now working with our leaders to help achieve equality here in America.

I will not dignify your attempted slur against my appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee some years back. All I can say is that if I were called upon to defend my country today, I would gladly do so. Nor do I hide behind any coat­tails as you do when caught in one of your numerous outlandish statements. Your usual “out” is to duck responsibility by stating: “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad says . . .”

Personally, I reject your racist views. I reject your dream of a separate state. I believe that many Americans, black and white, are committed to fighting for those freedoms for which Medgar Evers, William Moore, the Birmingham children and President John F. Kennedy died.

Those of us who are so committed have no intention of supporting the idea of a separate black state where the Honorable Muhammad can be the ruler and you his immediate successor—and all because you, Malcolm, hate white people. Too many of our young people have gone to jail and too many millions of dollars have been invested in our fight for equality for us to pay serious heed to your advice. Whether you like this country or not is of little concern to me. America is not perfect, by a long shot, but I happen to like it here and will do all I can to help make it the kind of place where my children and theirs can live in dignity.
As for Governor Rockefeller, I sincerely hope that what­ever contribution I can make to his campaign for nomination and election will be meaningful. I don’t know where you went to school, Malcolm. If you attended virtually any Negro college, I venture to say that a Rockefeller helped make your education possible. Neither do I apologize for my support of Mr. Nixon.

If conditions were the same today as they were in 1960, I would still support him. I do not do things to please “white bosses” or “black agitators” unless they are the things which please me. I respect Governor Rockefeller’s leadership of the present and what his family has meant to us in the past. I fully intend to do all I can to aid him.

The fact that I am supporting him does not mean you should. Rest assured, I am not doing so in the hope that you will come aboard.

You say I have never shown my appreciation to the Negro masses. I assume that is why NAACP branches all over the country constantly invite me to address them. I guess this is the reason the NAACP gave me its highest award, the Spingarn Medal, and why Dr. Martin King has consistently invited me to participate in the Southern Freedom Fight and invited me to co­chair with him the drive to raise funds to rebuild the burned churches in Georgia. By the way, Malcolm, I don’t remember our receiving your contribution.

Negroes are not fooled by your vicious theories that they are dying for freedom to please the white man. Negroes are fighting for freedom and rejecting your racism because we feel our stake in America is worth fighting for. Whom do you think you are kidding, Malcolm, when you say that Negro leaders ought to be “thankful” that you were not personally present in Birmingham or Mississippi after racial atrocities had been committed there? The inference seems to be that you would have played some dramatic, avenging role. I don’t think you would have.

I think you would have done exactly what you did after your own Muslim brothers ­were shot and killed in Los Angeles. You left it to the law to take its course.

You mouth a big and bitter battle, Malcolm, but it is noticeable that your militancy is mainly expressed in Harlem where it is safe.

I have always contended for your right—as for that of every American—to say and think and believe what you choose. I just happen to believe you are supporting and advocating policies which could not possibly interest the masses. Thank God for our Dr. Bunche, our Roy Wilkins, our Dr. King, and Mr. Randolph. I am also grateful for those people you consider “white bosses.”
I am glad that I have been able to come through for the people at whom you sneer. I am glad that Negroes spent so many millions for paid admissions to baseball. I am glad that we have sold an awful lot of Chock Full O’ Nuts Coffee. I am hopeful that we will be able to get a great many votes for Governor Rockefeller.

I shall always be happy to associate myself with decent Americans of either race who believe in justice for all. I hate to think of where we would be if we followed your leadership. Strictly in my personal opinion, it is a sick leadership which should rightfully be rejected by the vast majority of Americans.

 Jackie Robinson

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