"Just as a tree without roots is dead, a People without knowledge of their history or cultural roots also becomes a dead People."
By Malcolm X
(Excerpted from Malcolm X "On Afro-American History")
During the next three weeks, we're going to have a series that will be designed to give us a better understanding of the past, I should say a better knowledge of the past in order that we may understand the present and be better prepared for the future. I don't think any of you will deny the fact that it is impossible to understand the present or prepare for the future unless we have knowledge of the past. And the thing that has kept most of us, that is the (African living in America), almost crippled in this society has been our complete lack of knowledge concerning the past. The number one thing that makes us differ from other People is our lack of knowledge concerning the past.
Proof of which almost anyone else can come into this country and get around barriers and obstacles that we cannot get around; and the only difference between then and us, they know something about the past, and in knowing something about the past, they know something about themselves, they have an identity. But wherein you and I differ from them is primarily revolved around our lack of knowledge concerning the past. And tonight, this is what we would like to go into...
When you deal with the past, you're dealing actually with the origin of a thing. When you know the origin, you know the cause. If you don't know the origin, you don't know the cause. And if you don't know the cause, you don't know the reason, you're cutoff, you're left standing in midair. So the past deals with history or the origin of anything - the origin of a person, the origin of a nation, the origin of an incident.
And when you know the origin, then you get a better understanding of the causes that produce whatever originated there and its reason for originating and its reason for being. Its impossible for you and me to have a balanced mind in this society, as we function and fit into it right now, we're such an underdog, we're trampled upon, we're looked upon as almost nothing. Now if we don't go into the past and find out how we got this way, we will think that we were always this way.
And if you think that you were always in this condition that you're in right now, its impossible for you to have too much confidence in yourself, you become worthless, almost nothing. But when you go back into the past and find out where you once were, then you will know that you weren't always at this level, that you once had attained a higher level, had made great achievements, contributions to society, civilization, science and so forth. And you know that if you once did it, you can do it again; you automatically get the incentive, the inspiration and the energy necessary to duplicate what our forefathers formerly did.
But by keeping us completely cut off from our past, it Is easy for the man who has power over us to make us willing to stay at this level because we will feel that we always at this level, a low level,. That's why I say it is so important for you and me to spend time today learning something about the past so we can better understand the present, analyze it, and then do something about it...