Ossie Davis, Malcolm X, MLK, 100 Black Men, Roy Copeland, today and tomorrow

Kay Harris wrote for the VDT yesterday, Artifacts exhibit this weekend,
Actor Ossie Davis delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Malcolm X on Feb. 27, 1965. It was a strong statement of support for the life of a man whom controversy followed until his assassination at the age of 39. So why did Davis potentially risk his career to pay tribute to Malcolm X? A letter, written by Davis, explains his decision. The letter will be on public display this weekend.

Davis’ letter will join dozens of other historic artifacts for a special Black History Month observation, sponsored by the 100 Black Men of Valdosta Inc. The Sixth Annual African-American Artifacts exhibit will be on display noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25 and 26.

Kind of weird phrasing there, Ms. Editor, given that Ossie Davis’ tribute was after Malcolm X was assassinated….

I’d like to read that letter. How about you?

Here is a video of that eulogy (although the voice is not that of Ossie Davis):

Ah, this one sounds like Ossie Davis:

That one may be from Spike Lee’s movie, in which Ossie Davis is credited as “Eulogy Performer (voice)”. He sounds like he was from around here.

Finally, this appears to be a sound recording of the actual eulogy as it was delivered. It was much longer than the snippets that were used in the movie or that are usually reprinted. For example:

We have ceased to care. We have ceased to be concerned. We have ceased to remember our humanity. We are things, we are cogs, we are close to being dehumanized in this great country of ours.

Malcolm came along and said, stop, stop, you are men. Stop, you do care. Stop, there is life in you. Stop there is still the possibility that manhood, that courage, that strength, that imagination, will make the difference. It was he who rallied our flagging efforts, who taught us to stand up off of our knees, especially the black men, but also the whites, but to stand up off of our knees, to address ourselves to the truth, even if we were killed for it, and it’s been a long time since that kind of courage and bravery was abroad in our land.

He was referring specifically to a famous event in New York City of that time, but those words are even more true today.
We’ve had men, men who were mountains, men who were mighty, men who set us great and good examples, but they had one advantage that Malcolm did not have. They were men of education. They were men of college. They had had training. Malcolm came from the lowest depths. And therefore, in measuring the man we have to measure the place from whence he came. All of us sitting here tonight, men and women, black and white, can stand a little taller because a man like Malcolm X walked on our earth, lived in our midst, smiled his smile on the face of Harlem.

I am happy to have known him and if there is a possibility of redemption for me, for you, for Harlem, for our country, Malcolm is the man who said that such a redemption was possible, and when he died, he was pointing the way to this redemption. We sat tonight. We were uplifted by the singing, by the dancing, by the presence of great leaders among us, and you must have noticed that our greatest leaders turned out to be women.

So what’s our excuse? Will we be sitting on the couch watching TV when a bad law is passed or an innocent person is beaten?

Here’s a (slightly inaccurate) transcript. Apparently the transcriber had trouble understanding Ossie Davis’ Georgia accent. Maybe we can understand him better.


2 thoughts on “Ossie Davis, Malcolm X, MLK, 100 Black Men, Roy Copeland, today and tomorrow

  1. Barbara Stratton

    I tried to get there with the munchkin today, but we had other obligations & could not squeeze it in & I don’t think I can get back to V-Town tomorrow. I want to see the Ozzie Davis letter especially. Do you think Mr. Copeland would let you scan it so we could all read it. I’m curious as to which controversy Mr. Davis was aware of. I have files of years of research on Malcolm X & greatly admire his courage to speak unpopular truth even though he knew it would cause his death, which it did. Breaking from “group think” when greater truth is realized requires ultimate courage & not many possess it.

  2. Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange

    I haven’t gotten to the blue house, either. Yesterday I had another appointment, and today I have to catch up on things. I don’t know if Roy Copeland would let the letter be scanned. I will ask his opinion when next I see him, or you could. Meanwhile, I imagine there are lots of other interesting items down at the blue house today. -jsq

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