Malcolm X Meets PCVs in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)


NOTE: Letter in the New York TIMES today — PCVs meet up with Malcolm X in Addis. I have no idea what PCV wrote this letter. Do you?


Letter in the New York Times
October 3, 2020
Mon Ray

I am looking forward to the new book on Malcolm X. Not long before he was killed I saw him dining alone at a hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where I was in the Peace Corps. I introduced myself and we had a nice chat. He was surprised that I knew who he was and had read his writings in college. Occasionally he scanned the room; his notes from that period indicate he feared assassination and was paranoid about surveillance by the FBI and others. He accepted my invitation to have dinner with a group of Peace Corps Volunteers the next evening.

He drank water but declined food, perhaps because it was served by an Ethiopian servant or, I have read, he feared being poisoned. He spoke eloquently. Some at the table were newly-minted lawyers from Ivy schools who tried to fault his facts or logic, but his debating skills clearly exceeded theirs.

One of his points has stuck with me for 55 years: During this tour of Africa and meetings with numerous African heads of state, most of whom had mostly White Peace Corps and other US personnel doing their bidding, Malcolm had begun to think it possible for Blacks and Whites to work together without conflict and violence. This change of heart may have contributed to his being killed by those who promoted Black/White violence.

Ironically, I was chastised and almost sent back to the US for exposing Peace Corps to potentially embarrassing publicity by having anything to do with a firebrand who was widely thought to be planning race riots.

Malcolm X was assassinated in February 1965.


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    • Thanks, John, for posting the fascinating Cynthia Tse’s writing. Cynthia and I had some delightful reunions at International Ethiopian Studies Conferences over the years. Did you ever read her article on the “St. Louis Blues March” becoming a nationwide favorite marching tune? Good luck in your fie work with the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience. It was good to see you in Monterey, my last trip for a while.

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