Photo Of The Day

Photo: Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

Photo: Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

George Lincoln Rockwell

USA. Chicago. George Lincoln Rockwell, flanked by members of the American Nazi Party, listening to Malcolm X’s speech at Black Muslims meeting held at the International Amphitheatre.

In the above photo taken on?February 25th 1962, Eve Arnold captured a surreal scene: that of?Rockwell, flanked by members of his American Nazi Party, listening to Malcolm X?s speech to black Muslims at the International Amphitheater in Chicago. It was an obscure episode in American history, when Rockwell?s white supremacists and Malcolm X?s National of Islam took segregation to its extreme ends and called for independent nations, separated by skin colour.

Rockwell was comfortable being a caricature.?He believed all blacks should be deported to Africa; every Jew dispossessed and sterilized ? hatreds dwarfed only by his disdain for ?queers?. He also wanted to hang ?traitors? such as former Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. ?When Playboy sent a black journalist to interview him, Rockwell sat for the interview with pistol on the side table.

It is unfathomable today that within fifteen years from the Second World War, someone (and a war veteran at that) would fund an American version of the Nazi Party, call himself the American Hitler, and brandish Nazi insignia widely in public. But those were curious days. Partly due to government efforts to exonerate ordinary folks (who were now their allies in the Cold War) and partly due to lack of widespread mass media, it took a while for people to understand the enormity of the Holocaust. Many, even soldiers who saw the atrocities first hand, believed the?Nazis? persecution of Jews as part of their general campaign for oppression and starvation in Europe.

But by the time this photo was taken, such opinions were evaporating fast. The Eichmann trial in 1961 revealed one sordid detail after another. With each passing day, America moved away from the one he envisioned. Increasingly paranoid Rockwell himself was assassinated in 1967 by a disenchanted ex-deputy. His party is still alive today and tweets. Such a discordant divide between the 21st century technology it uses and the 19th century ideology it promotes.

USA. Black Muslims.1961

Founded by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad, the Muslim Cult of Islam started in July 1930. Fard claimed he was sent to wake “the black nation to the full range of the black man’s possibilities in a world temporarily dominated by blue eyed-devils”. After Fard disappeared, his assistant Elijah Muhammad changed the name to the Nation of Islam and moved the sect from Michigan to Chicago. Continuing in the same hard-line dialogue, he taught that blacks were ‘the original people’ and whites were ‘devils’.

In 1961, Eve Arnold followed the Nation of Islam to their meetings and rallies, and profiling Malcolm X, who later left the Nation for a more traditional form of Islam, and was later assassinated. The later leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, was accused by Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malcolm X, for involvement in her husband’s murder, as he had accused Malcolm of being a traitor for his later criticism of Elijah Muhammad.

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